Background

Soils in the vadose zone and earth structures are generally unsaturated due to evapotranspiration at the interface with the atmosphere. Because of the frequent interaction of anthropogenic activities with the shallow ground layer, a correct understanding of the flow and mechanical properties of unsaturated soils is particularly important for geotechnical and environmental engineering applications.

The project MAGIC is promoted by 4 SMEs and 3 academic partners sharing an interest in research and technological development of field testing and monitoring of unsaturated soils. The 7 MAGIC partners are distributed at different latitudes over Europe and can therefore contribute expertise developed in different environmental conditions. The 3 academic partners are renowned for having developed state-of-the-art techniques to measure hydro-mechanical variables in unsaturated geomaterials, most of which are however still restricted to the academic domain and have not yet been commercially exploited. The University of Strathclyde and the Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour have developed instrumentation to measure pore-water tension in excess of 100 kPa, i.e. in the range of absolute negative pressures while USTRAT and DUT have designed electrical resistivity and dielectric permittivity techniques for measurement of soil moisture. This research has led to the development of laboratory prototypes but it is now time to turn scientific ideas into robust and easy-to-use field instrumentation for engineering practice.

Conversely, the 4 industrial partners (all SMEs) have demonstrated capacity to innovate but have so far had restricted research capabilities due to limited critical mass. These SMEs will benefit from interaction with the academic partners by gaining the necessary expertise that will allow them to produce state-of-the-art instruments and data management systems that will boost their competitiveness at European and International level.

These goals will be achieved through the transfer of scientific and technological knowledge at both network and task levels. At network level, all partners will share know-how through their involvement in the design and monitoring of the ‘benchmark’ field site to which they will collectively participate by setting up instrumentation, conditioning sensors, interpreting readings and comparing data. At task level, the synergy between academic and industrial partners will instead focus on the development of one specific instrument of the monitoring system. Each instrument to be developed is associated to a single industrial partner but will be supported by multiple academic partners so to maximize opportunities for transfer of expertise from academia to industry.