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UEL engineer awarded prestigious fellowship for sinkhole research

civil engineering

Dr Arya Assadi Langroudi says method may prevent sinkholes

Dr Arya Assadi Langroudi of the University of East London (UEL) has been awarded a fellowship which will take him to South Africa in 2018 to collaborate with a team of researchers on ways to more quickly detect sinkholes. 

Dr Langroudi (pictured above), a geotechnical engineer and senior lecturer, said he has found links between the chemical make-up of soil and the risk of soil collapse. 

The fellowship, which is provided jointly by the South African Science and Technology Department and National Research Foundation via the Newton Fund, will allow Dr Langroudi to take his research to the next level.

His team will investigate the hypothesis that soils containing certain strains of calcium carbonate are more prone to collapse and sinkhole formation. If they are correct, it means sinkholes can be predicted before they happen with a simple chemical probe of the soil.

By transforming less stable forms of carbonates to more stable forms, a sinkhole could potentially be prevented from happening, or at least be staved off long enough to give authorities time to issues warnings and prevent major harm to people. 

The research is part of Dr Langroudi’s Project SAFE2 (Self-Healing Calcium Abstraction Fixation Engineering 2): ‘Early Detection System for Sinkholes in Urban Areas’.

Dr Langroudi, who specialises in micromechanics and geohazards, said that more than 10,000 sinkholes have been recorded in the UK since 2002. 

They mostly occur shortly after episodes of intense rainfall upon dissolution of soluble minerals in the soil, or when water is drained away from the ground or surfaces.
 
He said, “In the UK, alongside the global trends, urban sinkholes have gained increasing interest, the culmination of which was after the 2016 St Albans’s sinkhole (66 foot wide 33), which was followed the same year by the (20 foot deep) Hemel Hampstead sinkhole and the (60 foot deep) sinkhole in South London.
 
He continued, “Most geophysical surveys are based on interpreting the behaviour of how radar waves act in the ground.

“These can often be inconclusive, so we’re trying an alternative technique, which when coupled with conventional direct and cheaper lab tests, could lead to more cases of significant ground loss risk being detected.”