Geotechnical Mobile Laboratory

Iowa State University’s Geotechnical Mobile Lab is helping researchers conduct geotechnical engineering-related projects in Iowa and other states.

Geotechnical engineering focuses on soil mechanics, earth structures, foundations, and retaining structures. Researchers are defining and prioritizing geotechnical problems and developing and/or implementing applicable technologies, specifications, and/or processes that allow maximum efficiency and creativity on the part of the contractor, use acceptance criteria that ensure responsible use of public funds, and maximize roadway value by increasing the performance life.

Lab Objectives

The Geotechnical Mobile Lab aims to improve earthwork projects and geotechnical engineering research in several ways:

  • Better understand the engineering properties of soils that relate to performance in highway construction and have a high degree of reliability for agencies and contractors.
  • Improve earthwork construction quality and efficiency through the use of current and emerging construction equipment and intelligent construction technologies.
  • Develop improved laboratory and field-testing technologies and procedures for verification testing.
  • Test and field measure the properties of soils that relate to performance and use this knowledge to develop methods of quality control/quality assurance (QC/QA) for geotechnical applications.
  • Provide field training opportunities to contractors and public agency personnel.

The Geotechnical Mobile Lab offers several benefits for earthwork projects:

  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Reduced construction costs
  • More responsible use of public investments
  • Greater reliability
  • Improved performance
Support/Tow Vehicle

The Geotechnical Mobile Lab’s support/tow vehicle has the following features:

  • Freightliner M2 106
  • Allison automatic transmission
  • Mercedes Benz 300 hp diesel engine
  • Air-brake equipped
  • Rear air suspension
  • Extended cab
  • 16-ft steel flatbed with gooseneck ball hitch
  • Six-side toolboxes for securely stowing field equipment
  • 2,500-watt 12 VDC 110 AC inverter
  • 50-gal water tank with electric demand pump
  • 40-gal diesel fuel nurse tank with pump
  • Safety beacon
  • Kawasaki 3010 diesel mule ATV for onsite transportation and testing
  • ATV ramps and tie-downs
  • Plate load reaction frame mounted under truck frame
Lab Trailer

The Geotechnical Mobile Lab trailer has the following features:

  • 44-ft length, all aluminum, insulated trailer
  • 36-ft x 8-ft 6-in. lab area divided into three rooms
  • 7-ft 6-in. interior height
  • Gooseneck: 20-kw diesel electric generator on air suspension; 50-gal diesel fuel tank; 100-gal water tank
  • Twin 10,000-lb capacity axels with air ride suspension
  • Air brake system
  • External front and rear electric (110 v) and water connections
  • 110 v, 220 v, and 12 v DC electric systems
  • 3 room heaters and air conditioners
  • 2 large exhaust fans
  • 2 floor drains
  • 4 hydraulic leveling jacks
  • Hot and cold water
  • Stainless steel counter tops
  • Rubberized floor coating
  • 2 Lista tool cabinets
  • 12 equipment tie-downs
  • Conference/work area with 32-in. x 52-in. table and 4 chairs and 64-in. x 28-in. desk area
Lab Equipment

The Geotechnical Mobile Lab carries the following laboratory equipment:

  • Pine Brovold gyratory compactor
  • Proctor Ploog soil compactor
  • Endecotts EFL 2000 vibratory sieve shaker
  • Certified sieves for particle size analysis
  • Hobart 12-qt mixer
  • Humbolt rapid soil grinder
  • Syntron vibrating table with molds for relative density testing of cohesionless soils
  • 2 Fisher Isotemp ovens
  • Refrigerator
  • Microwave oven
  • Geocomp LoadTrac II with 2 FlowTrac II pumps and additional equipment for resilient modulus testing
  • Triaxial and resilient modulus cell for 2.8-in. and 4-in. sample testing
  • Triaxial and resilient modulus cell for 6-in. sample testing Consolidation cell (2.5-in.)
  • HP laptop computer
  • Soilmoisture PM 300 psi air compressor
  • Ohaus Pro Series balances (4,100.0 g and 32,000.0 g)
  • Hydrometer set with 6 cylinders
  • Liquid and plastic limits testing equipment
  • Davis Vantage Pro weather station with Weatherlink datalogger
  • Tools and laboratory sample preparation equipment
Field Equipment

The Geotechnical Mobile Lab carries the following field equipment:

  • Kessler dynamic cone penetrometer
  • Plate load testing equipment
  • Panasonic Toughbook computers
  • Analytical Spectral Devices Agrispec portable near-infrared spectrometer
  • Lightweight falling weight deflectometer
  • Clegg standard and heavy hammers
  • TDR testing equipment
  • GeoGauge stiffness gauge
  • Piezoeletric earth pressure cells
  • Data loggers
  • Ground penetrating radar (900 and 1500 MHz)
  • Borehole shear test (developed at ISU)
  • Rapid gas permeameter (developed at ISU)
  • Water infiltrometers