Laboratory modelling of slow-moving landslides

The aim of this MSc project is to understand the dynamics of slow-moving landslides using 3-dimensional scaled laboratory models.

Slow-moving landslides are a common form of ground motion that occurs in mechanically weak, clay-rich soil and rock masses. Although slow-moving landslides rarely claim lives, they can pose a high risk to local infrastructures and public safety.

Numerous questions related to slow-moving landslides remain unanswered. (1) What is the effect of the basal layer shape on the motion distribution of the landslide? (2) What is the effect of the rock strength on the landslide? (3) What is the effect of layering on the landslide dynamics?

The aim of this MSc project is to answer these questions through 3-dimensional laboratory scaled models of slow-moving landslides. The brittle rocks are modelled with Mohr-Coulomb granular materials of variable strength, whereas ductile rocks are modelled with high-viscosity silicone putty. A layer of brittle material will lay on top of a ductile layer on a given slope, leading to creeping, sliding and fracturing of the brittle layer.

The evolution and dynamics of the laboratory landslides will be monitored using a laboratory geodetic monitoring system based on photogrammetry, which will produce a time series of topographic maps and surface displacement maps.


The project will be organized according to the following steps:

  • Design of the laboratory modelling strategy
  • Running a selected series of experiments and data acquisition
  • Data analysis using in-house image analysis tools
  • The physical interpretation of the models
  • Comparison and integration with field examples

The learning outcomes of the project are the following:

  • Laboratory modelling design
  • Modelling strategy and parameter study
  • Quantitative data and physical analysis
  • Physics of brittle rock deformation and failure, which is applicable to other geological systems (basin structures, geomechanics)

To implement this project, it is recommended to have:

  • Basic knowledge in programming skills, in order to analyze the laboratory data
  • Basic knowledge in geomechanics
  • The skills to be acquired during this MSc projects are highly relevant both for academic, geotechnical and consulting careers
Published Feb. 22, 2021 12:39 PM - Last modified Feb. 22, 2021 12:39 PM

Scope (credits)