Electro-osmotic flow in clays and its potential for reducing clogging in mechanical tunnel driving

  • Michel Heuser
  • Giovanni SpagnoliEmail author
  • Philippe Leroy
  • Norbert Klitzsch
  • Helge Stanjek
Original Paper


Clogging during mechanical tunnel driving is not only a serious technical issue, but also an economic one. The costs of a tunnel excavation can easily rise and disputes between the awarding authorities and the executive companies may occur. Although the literature is full of cases describing the clogging in clayey soils and despite countermeasures being available, clogging still occurs. This study proposes an alternative method to diminish adhesion of clays on TBMs. Electro-osmotic flow experiments, spectral induced polarisation tests and Zeta-potential simulations were performed on kaolinite and smectite, mixed with several pore fluids under one critical consistency index. The results showed that the electrical parameters were not only influenced by the clay mineralogy per se, but also by the pore fluid chemistry. To apply the laboratory findings in in situ conditions, several theoretical considerations have been taken into account. Although further research is required, the study indicates electro-osmosis may be a new and revolutionary approach to deal with the clogging of TBMs.


Adherence Mechanized tunneling Electro-osmosis SIP Zeta potential 


Le colmatage lors du creusement d’un tunnel est non seulement un grave problème technique, mais aussi une question économique. Ce travail de recherche propose une méthode alternative pour diminuer l’adhérence des sols argileux sur les tunneliers. Des expériences d’écoulement électro-osmotique, des essais de polarisation induite spectrale (SIP) et des simulations de potentiel zêta ont été effectués avec de la kaolinite et de la smectite, mélangées avec plusieurs fluides pour un indice de consistance critique. Les résultats ont montré que les paramètres électriques étaient non seulement influencés par la minéralogie de l’argile, mais aussi par la chimie du fluide interstitiel. Pour appliquer ces résultats de laboratoire aux conditions in situ, plusieurs considérations théoriques ont été prises en compte. Bien que des études supplémentaires soient nécessaires, on conclut que l’électro-osmose pourrait constituer une approche nouvelle et révolutionnaire pour traiter du problème du colmatage des tunneliers.

Mots clés

Adhérence Creusement mécanisé des tunnels Electro-osmose SIP Potentiel Zêta 



This paper is publication no. GEOTECH-1985 of the German BMBF/DFG “Geotechnologien” program, whose financial support made this research possible. The authors also thank the following companies which have provided the materials for this research: Dorfner GmbH and HA Minerals GmbH. The authors wish also to thank Rafig Azzam, Martin Feinendegen and Tomás Fernández-Steeger for the cooperation throughout the project.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michel Heuser
    • 1
  • Giovanni Spagnoli
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Philippe Leroy
    • 4
  • Norbert Klitzsch
    • 5
  • Helge Stanjek
    • 1
  1. 1.Clay and Interface MineralogyRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.BAUER Maschinen GmbHSchrobenhausenGermany
  3. 3.Department of Engineering Geology and HydrogeologyRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  4. 4.Water DivisionBRGMOrléansFrance
  5. 5.E.ON Research Center, Institute for Applied Geophysics and Geothermal EnergyRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany

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