ALPACA (axial-lateral pile analysis for chalk applying multi-scale field and laboratory testing) is part funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and designed by Imperial College London in conjunction with Oxford University.
Socotec's open day was attended by 12 industry partners at a quarry site near Margate, Kent, UK, to witness the innovative research taking place. The research streams include field testing and chalk characterisation as well as the advanced laboratory analysis to support the synthesis of data.
To support the project, Socotec has so far prepared steel tubular piles with FBG fibre optic strain gauges to allow dynamic strain measurements during driving and subsequently under maintained load testing.
Socotec is the first company to use such technology in the UK. Each instrumented pile has two strings diametrically opposite each other to monitor eccentricity during driving and distribution of strain under load. The fibres are pre-tensioned and laid in shallow grooves along the external surface of the tubular pile.
Martyn Ellis, operations director, Foundation Testing, Socotec, said: "We're extremely proud to be involved with such a large scale pile testing research project. As experts in what we do, being at the forefront of innovative technology is fundamental to driving both research and the foundation testing industry forwards.
"The open day provided us with an opportunity to demonstrate what we do best to a key audience. We look forward to continuing our developments and support for this project which brings together businesses and academics alike."
The current research stage involves Socotec undertaking high-precision pile load testing including tension, compression, lateral and cyclic technology as part of groundbreaking research work in chalk strata for the wind energy industry.