University of Adelaide engineers are researching ways to better predict the potential collapse of mines and large infrastructure sites.
The four year project is aimed at developing practical formulas to help engineers understand what is happening at the soil, rocks, and concrete level and connect it with the factors that trigger collapse.
"There are many cases around the world where we've seen catastrophic failure and collapse at underground mine sites with huge losses in terms of people's lives and property," Australian Research Council future fellow at UoA's school of mining engineering, Dr. Giang Nguyen, said.
"It's very hard to predict the effect of a natural disaster or failure in infrastructure.
"All we can do as engineers or researchers to ensure the optimal stability is to do laboratory tests on small specimens taken from the site and use this analysis to project what might happen on a larger scale," he said.
"But there are obviously different behaviours between small specimens of 10cm3 then for large structures of 100m3 or more."
Nguyen said these 'scaling issues' have resulted in inaccurate predictions.
"We need to come up with a method for better prediction that can properly link failures at the micro-scale, specimen scale, and large [field] scale," he said.
"This would transform the understanding of material property scaling into a predictive tool for engineering analysis, helping to obtain more cost effective designs with greater confidence in safety."