Small-Scale Modeling of Thermomechanical Behavior of Reinforced Concrete Energy Piles in Soil

Rui Zhao, Anthony Kwan Leung, Davide Vitali, Jonathan Adam Knappett, Zheng Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
246 Downloads (Pure)


Small-scale physical model tests have been increasingly used to study the thermomechanical soil-pile interaction, but existing model piles are highly simplified and do not have representative thermal properties or the quasi-brittle mechanical behavior of RC. This study aims to overcome these shortcomings by presenting a new type of model RC. This consists of a mortar (plaster, sand, and water) with copper powder added to tune the mixture's thermal properties, along with a steel reinforcing cage. Fine sand was used to represent geometrical scaling of the prototype aggregates to correctly capture the quasi-brittle structural response. Adding copper powder content of 6% (by volume) matched the coefficient of thermal expansion and thermal conductivity of prototype concrete without changing the axial and flexural properties of model piles. In 1g soil-structure interaction tests, the model pile was able to serve as an effective heat exchanger for transferring heat from a water-carrying pipe embedded within the mortar to the surrounding soil. The model RC exhibited cyclic pile head settlement due to repeated pile heating and cooling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number04020011
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
Issue number4
Early online date13 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Environmental Science(all)


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