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Dr. Louis N.Y. Wong
The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (China)
Water – an enemy of rocks in geotechnical engineering

In the realm of geotechnical engineering, the integrity and strength of rocks in the wet state are usually lower than those in the dry state.Due to the considerable variations of texture and lithology, the extent of water-weakening effect is highly variedamong different rock types, spanning from nearly negligible in quartzite to 90 percent of uniaxial compressive strength reduction in shale. Readers however often face difficulties in comparing the data published in different sources due to the discrepancy of experimental procedures of obtaining the water saturation state and how the raw laboratory data is interpreted. This presentations describes the development of two flowcharts to facilitate a systematic review and compilation of the literature data. The results, which are presented in bar charts and tables, reveal the variation of water weakening effects on different rock types, particularly focusing on uniaxial compressive strength and modulus, as well as tensile strength, under quasi-static loading and dynamic loading. The review further reveals that water content is the most significant, but not the only factor leading to rock strength and modulus reduction. The water content effect is generally more severe in sedimentary rocks than in igneous and metamorphic rocks. Other internal factors such as porosity, density and fabric, as well as external factors such as strain rate, surface tension and dielectric constant of the saturating liquid, absorption percentage and suction pressure have also been identified and studied in the past experimental studies. The correlation relationships established among various parameters, which will be useful to the geotechnical engineering practitioners, will also be presented and discussed.


Dr. Louis Wong is an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Hong Kong. He obtained his BSc degree from the same department in 1999, and PhD degree in Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering from MIT in 2008. Dr Wong was previously an Assistant Professor and Assistant Chair (Academic) in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. He also worked as a consulting tunnel engineer at CDM in the USA and as an Engineering Geology Graduate in the Hong Kong Government. His teaching and research interests are in engineering geology, rock mechanics and underground engineering.

Dr. Wong has authored and co-authored more than 90 journal and conference publications. He is an editorial board member of the Journal Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering (Springer), Journal Engineering Geology (Elsevier) and Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment (Springer) and Journal of Rock Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering(Elsevier).Dr. Wong won the Richard Wolter’s Prize 2014 from the IAEG (International Association of Engineering Geology and Environment) and the Nanyang Education Award at NTU for the academic year 2012/13.

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