Dr Grainne El Mountassir

Senior Lecturer

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Personal statement

I’m a Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. I have a MEng in Civil Engineering with European Studies and a PhD in Geotechnical Engineering, both from Strathclyde. My research is largely experimental and focuses on understanding the hydraulic and mechanical behaviour of soils and rocks. I am particularly interested in the potential use of biological processes in geotechnical engineering. I am currently developing novel grouting technologies including microbially induced calcite precipitation as a technique for sealing fine aperture fractures.

Publications

Development of a reactive transport model for field-scale simulation of microbially induced carbonate precipitation
Minto James M, Lunn Rebecca J, El Mountassir Gráinne
Water Resources Research Vol 55, pp. 7229-7245 (2019)
https://doi.org/10.1029/2019WR025153
Preliminary observations of the shear behaviour of fungal treated soil
Salifu Emmanuel, El Mountassir Gráinne
7th International Symposium on Deformation Characteristics of Geomaterials (2019)
https://doi.org/10.1051/e3sconf/20199211017
Micro-continuum modelling of injection strategies for microbially induced carbonate precipitation
Minto James M, El Mountassir Grainne, Lunn Rebecca J
E3S Web of Conferences 7th International Symposium on Deformation Characteristics of Geomaterials (2019)
https://doi.org/10.1051/e3sconf/20199211019
Microscale analysis of fractured rock sealed with microbially induced CaCO3 precipitation : influence on hydraulic and mechanical performance
Tobler Dominique J, Minto James M, El Mountassir Grainne, Lunn Rebecca J, Phoenix Vernon R
Water Resources Research Vol 54, pp. 8295-8308 (2018)
https://doi.org/10.1029/2018WR023032
A study on the mechanical interaction between soil and colloidal silica gel for ground improvement
Wong Christopher, Pedrotti Matteo, El Mountassir Grainne, Lunn Rebecca J
Engineering Geology Vol 243, pp. 84-100 (2018)
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enggeo.2018.06.011
Applications of microbial processes in geotechnical engineering
El Mountassir G, Minto J M, van Paassen L A, Salifu E, Lunn R J
Advances in Applied Microbiology (2018) (2018)

more publications

Teaching

I teach soil mechanics (CL217) in second year and I run the Engineers Without Borders Challenge design project as part of the third year curriculum.

Research interests

My research is largely experimental and focuses on understanding the hydraulic and mechanical behaviour of soils and rocks. I am particularly interested in the potential use of biological processes in geotechnical engineering. I am currently developing novel grouting technologies including microbially induced calcite precipitation as a technique for sealing fine aperture fractures and silica sol as a low viscosity grout. My research addresses challenges related to geological disposal of nuclear waste and decommissioning of contaminated sites. 

Professional activities

Invited seminar on 'Microbial processes in geotechnical engineering'
Invited speaker
19/4/2018
Internal Examiner
Examiner
2/2018
University Of Strathclyde (Organisational unit)
Member
1/2018
Internal Examiner
Examiner
12/2017
Erosion testing of Loch Thom core materials
Consultant
10/2017
EXPLORATHON 2017
Speaker
9/2017

more professional activities

Projects

Biotechnology for Treatment and Repair of Concrete Nuclear Infrastructure
Turner, Ronnie (Researcher) Lunn, Rebecca (Principal Investigator) El Mountassir, Grainne (Principal Investigator)
Postdoctoral research project as part of the 'Transformative Science and Engineering for Nuclear Decommissioning' (TRANSCEND) research consortium. This project aims to develop new biotechnological methods for the treatment of damaged cement and concrete structures in the UK civil nuclear industry.
03-Jan-2018 - 03-Jan-2021
Underpinning the safety case for the use of colloidal silica based grout for waste containment
Bots, Pieter (Co-investigator) Lunn, Rebecca (Principal Investigator) El Mountassir, Grainne (Co-investigator) Pedrotti, Matteo (Co-investigator) Payne, Timothy (Co-investigator) Renshaw, Joanna (Co-investigator)
X-ray Computed Tomography beamtime awarded by Diamond Light Source (STFC) at equivalent funding value of £95,940.

Abstract of funded proposal:
In the proposed experiments we aim to develop the scientific case to underpin the use of novel colloidal silica based grouts for radioactive waste containment. We aim to use the element specific capabilities of synchrotron based X-ray CT at beamline I13-2 to investigate the effects of the grout injection on the geochemistry of Sr, Cs and U. We will also utilize the time resolved capabilities to determine the influence of complex solid matrices on the (injection) behaviour of the silica grouts.
06-Jan-2017 - 10-Jan-2017
Engineering FUngal Networks for Ground Improvement (Engineering FUNGI)
El Mountassir, Grainne (Principal Investigator)
"Conventional ground improvement techniques are highly invasive, frequently energy intensive and may require the introduction of environmentally damaging chemicals or carbon-intensive materials into the subsurface (e.g. chemical grouts, cement). The construction sector is responsible for 7% of carbon emissions in the UK. The UK target for 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 (against the 1990 baseline) presents both challenges and tremendous opportunities for the UK construction sector in the transition towards a low-carbon economy. The use of cementitious materials is pervasive in conventional ground improvement techniques, and with cement production contributing 5-7% of total global CO2 emissions there is a clear need for the development of new ground improvement technologies.

Over the last ten years the geotechnical engineering research community has witnessed the creation of a new subdiscipline: biogeotechnics a multi-disciplinary field at the interface of biology, geochemistry, soil mechanics, and geotechnical engineering. This represents a paradigm shift in geotechnical engineering- until now the accepted view has been to consider the ground as sterile and inert; now engineers are exploring the potential for use of biological and biochemical processes in ground engineering applications. This proposal represents the first steps towards the development of a novel low-carbon, minimal intervention, biologically based technology using engineered fungal networks.

Biological soil crusts in nature (consisting of fungi, bacteria and other organisms) are known to withstand erosion due to water or wind action. This project will investigate filamentous fungi, i.e. fungi which grow hyphae (tube-like structures). It is thought that fungal hyphae behave similar to plant roots - penetrating between soil particles and entangling them -helping to bind soil particles together, but on a smaller scale. Furthermore, fungi can secrete biochemical products, which may also contribute to binding of soil particles. This project will systematically quantify the mechanical benefit of fungal treatment in soils by investigating three different types of fungi and their ability to enhance the behaviour of different soil types. The project will determine the conditions required for rapid fungal network growth to occur and optimise the orientation of hyphal development to give maximum mechanical benefit. The dataset arising from the proposed experimental campaign will act as a springboard for the development of a new range of nature inspired ground improvement technologies.

The research proposed could transform how we consider the design of, development and deployment of ground improvement technologies. Rather than subject the ground to different energy intensive or invasive techniques, this research proposes to 'grow' the required level of treatment through the use of fungal networks. The process could be engineered using external stimuli to orient the hyphal networks as required for site-specific applications. This project will investigate the feasibility of the deployment of fungal networks as a ground improvement technology."
01-Jan-2017 - 03-Jan-2020
Impacts of colloidal silica grout injection on the geochemistry of radioactive wastes
Renshaw, Joanna (Principal Investigator) Bots, Pieter (Co-investigator) El Mountassir, Grainne (Co-investigator) Lunn, Rebecca (Co-investigator) Pedrotti, Matteo (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2016 - 31-Jan-2018
Immobilisation and Containment of Radioactive Waste using Colloidal Silica-Based Grout
Lunn, Rebecca (Principal Investigator) El Mountassir, Grainne (Co-investigator) Renshaw, Joanna (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2016 - 31-Jan-2019
Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP - University of Strathclyde) | Swift, Paul
El Mountassir, Grainne (Principal Investigator) Switzer, Christine (Co-investigator) Swift, Paul (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2016 - 01-Jan-2019

more projects

Address

Civil and Environmental Engineering
James Weir Building

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