JCJC SIMI 9 - JCJC : Sciences de l'information, de la matière et de l'ingénierie : Sciences de l'ingénierie, matériaux, procédés, énergie

Geotechnical aspects of foundation energy piles – PiNRJ

Various approaches have been used. First, a small-scale energy pile was developed in laboratory. The experimental setup is composed of a model pile surround by soil being considered. A constant load was applied on the pile’s head to simulate the building’s load; temperature-controlled fluid was circulated inside the pile for cooling/heating purpose. The following parameters were monitored: soil temperature, pile’s head movement, and stress distribution along the pile and in the surrounding soil. At the same time, numerical modelling, by finite elements method, was performed to simulate the behaviour of energy pile. Thermal dilation of the pile, considered by a numerical code, allowed predicting the soil/pile interaction under thermal cycles. The tests performed in physical model in the
present project and the in situ experiments performed in Lausanne and London (found from the literature review) were simulated using this numerical method. Finally, the temperature effect on shear resistance at soil/pile interface was studied using a temperature-controlled direct shear box.

The results evidence the important effect of thermal dilation of the pile on the soil/pile interaction during thermal cycles. In practice, the effect of thermal cycles can then be considered in the structural design of energy pile by imposing a volumetric strain that is equal to the thermal strain of the pile.

In addition, the present project allowed starting a new research topic in the Laboratoire Navier de l’Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées on the
thermo-active geostructures. Currently, a new PhD student has started to work on this topic.

The project allowed publishing: one PhD dissertation; four articles for peer-reviewed journals (three indexed in Web of Science); two book chapters; three communications in proceedings of international conferences; three oral presentation in international workshops and seminars; other articles are planned.

Submission summary

The energy piles (also called “heat exchanger piles”) are the foundation piles which are used as heat exchangers. The piles foundation is used to erect structure on an underground with poor load bearing properties. A system of heat exchanger pipes is embedded in the piles allowing the exchanges of thermal energy between the ground and the building via a fluid circulating in the pipes. This system combining with a heat exchanger allows extracting heat from the soil in winter and re-injecting back heat to the soil in summer. Nowadays, this technique has already been used in more than 300 installations in Europe. In France, the geothermal energy of very low temperature (<30° C) and shallow boreholes (less than 100 m depth) has a role less important than other geothermal techniques; the technique of energy pile has never been used. Actually, the main obstacle to the industrial development of this technology is the lack of reliable knowledge concerning the thermal effects on the structural behaviour of the foundation. In the design of existing installations, the geotechnical (structural) aspects and the thermal performance of the heat exchanger piles are usually considered separately. Few works have been done to investigate the geotechnical aspects of the heat exchanger piles. Nevertheless, some in situ tests performed recently in London (UK) and Lausanne (CH) have shown that the geotechnical capacity of the pile was significantly affected by the heating/cooling cycles. The present proposal aims at providing a further understanding on the geotechnical behaviour of energy piles foundation subjected to thermal cycles. Various approaches will be used to deal with this general objective. First, a small-scale experiment will be developed to perform energy pile tests in laboratory. That consists of a small-scale pile embedded in the middle of a cylindrical container filled with the soil being studied. After the installation of the system, temperature-controlled fluid will be circulated along the pile to simulate the heating/cooling phases of the energy pile. The following parameters will be monitored during the experiments: temperature of the soil surrounding the pile, heave or settlement of the top of pile and of the soil surface, changes on the stress distribution along the pile. The experiment will be performed with three types of soil (sand, silt, and clay) and at various boundary conditions. Beside the small-scale experiments, numerical modelling by the finite element method will be used to simulate the behaviour of a single energy pile. First, a thermo-poro-mechanical model will be formulated to describe the behaviour of the surrounding soil under thermal changes. Second, a soil-pile interface model will be extended to account for temperature effects. The two models, implemented into a finite element numerical code, will allow simulating the soil-pile interaction subjected to thermal cycles. Finally, the small-scale experiments performed in the proposed project and the in situ tests performed previously in Lausanne and London will be simulated using the developed finite elements tool. That will allow a deeper interpretation of the observed results. The third approach consists of the homogenization technique to predict the behaviour of the whole energy piles foundation system subjected to thermal changes. The experimental results and the numerical modelling of a single energy pile will be used to analyse the behaviour of the Representative Elementary Volume (REV) of the reinforced soil. This analysis will allow then the development of a homogenized model for the analysis of soils reinforced with energy piles (based on the periodic distribution of the piles), taking into account the thermo-hydro-mechanical couplings between the piles foundation and the soil mass. This model will be finally incorporated into a finite elements numerical code and would be useful for designing energy piles foundation.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Anh Minh Tang (ECOLE NATIONALE DES PONTS ET CHAUSSEES) – anh-minh.tang@enpc.fr

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 159,848 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 36 Months

Useful links

Explorez notre base de projets financés



ANR makes available its datasets on funded projects, click here to find more.

Sign up for the latest news:
Subscribe to our newsletter