Soil particles under microscope appearing on computer screen

SciGEM laboratories and facilities

Specialist facilities in geomechanics and geotechnical engineering

The Sydney Centre in Geomechanics and Mining Materials (SciGEM) is home to the Geotechanical Research Laboratory, Particles and Grains Laboratory, Geo-environmental Laboratory and Dynamix.


Our DynamiX laboratory is a pioneering facility for the study of rapid material flows using fast X-ray technology. It allows for the measurement of material properties during dynamic processes with applications in a wide range of fields dealing with bulk granular flow. It provides unique measurement capabilities for characterising evolution of the spatial distribution of size and shape of particulate matter. It has the ability to study granular flow in 3D using X-ray tomography and high speed radiography from multiple angles simultaneously.

It is applicable to bulk solids handling and conveying, natural hazards, geomaterials, pharmaceutical powders, mining and related industries. It is complemented by 3D printing and numerical simulation facilities.

Animation of x-ray of silo discharge

Geotechnical Research Laboratory

The Geotechnical Research Laboratory (GRL) is dedicated to the pursuit of research excellence in geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering, as well as related fields such as earth sciences, soil mechanics, rock mechanics, particles and grains research, foundation engineering, marine geotechnics, environmental geotechnics and engineering geology.

GRL is equipped with the following facilities and equipment:

  • triaxial testing
  • shear box testing (small and large boxes)
  • simple shear testing
  • oedometer testing
  • rock sample testing (point load and unconfined compression tests)
  • permeability testing
  • compaction testing
  • constant normal stiffness (cns) testing
  • model or prototype testing
  • atterberg limits
  • grading (particle size distribution)
  • shear wave velocity testing (small strain modulus)
  • pull-out tests on reinforcing straps.

Particles and Grains Laboratory

Researcher inspecting granular materials under microscope

The Particles and Grains Laboratory (PGL) has facilities designed to provide a unique research focus in the areas of granular physics and materials science as a whole, geomechanics and their interconnections.

PGL is equipped with the following facilities and equipment:

  • three 3D printers
  • 3D profilometer
  • 3D scanner
  • Hirox digital microscope
  • nano-indentation
  • morphological equipment for particle size and shape statistics
  • optical microscopy
  • stadium shear device (2D and 3D)
  • loading frame with load cells of 5kN and 200N
  • model testing of particle flow problems
  • sample preparation for material testing
  • wheel saw, grinder and polisher
  • photographic and thermal imaging
  • automated particle characterisation equipment by image analysis.

As well as being available for our research work, PGL is also available for consulting and teaching activities relating to material testing and characterisation, product development, proof engineering, forensic engineering, continuum and particle-based modelling of granular systems and modelling of breakage mechanics

Geo-environmental Laboratory

Vapor Sorption Analyser

The Geo-environmental Laboratory (GEL) is a major new investment made by the Centre that provides facilities for the study of unsaturated soils. It boasts a full suite of water retention curve measurement devices for the study of unsaturated soils. With that suite of devices, GEL is capable of measuring suctions across the full spectrum of water content from saturation to near dryness.

Our equipment includes:

  • two Barcelona Cells for water retention curve measurements
  • decagon chilled-mirror psychrometer WP4C
  • decagon aqualab vapor sorption analyser (VSA)
  • two fully-instrumented columns for the study of multi-layered media under thermomechanical loads
  • micromeritics porosimeter for characterising the porous network of soils and other porous media
  • micro-climate monitoring system and climate-chamber phytotrones
  • rheometer, hydraulic and thermal conductivity measurement devices.