Acta Geotechnica

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 19–33 | Cite as

Liquid water uptake in unconfined Callovo Oxfordian clay-rock studied with neutron and X-ray imaging

  • Eleni StavropoulouEmail author
  • Edward Andò
  • Alessandro Tengattini
  • Matthieu Briffaut
  • Frédéric Dufour
  • Duncan Atkins
  • Gilles Armand
Research Paper


The Callovo Oxfordian clay-rock (COx) is studied in France for the disposal of radioactive waste, because of its extremely low permeability. This host rock is governed by a hydromechanical coupling of high complexity. This paper presents an experimental study into the mechanisms of water uptake in small, unconfined, prismatic specimens of COx, motivated by the comprehension of cracking observed during concrete/COx interface sample preparation. Water uptake is monitored using both X-ray tomography and neutron radiography, the combination of these imaging techniques allowing material deformation and water arrival to be quantified, respectively. Given the speed of water entry and crack propagation, relatively fast imaging is required: 5-min X-ray tomographies and 10-s neutron radiographs are used. In this study, pairs of similar COx samples from the same core are tested separately with each imaging technique. Two different orientations with respect to the core are also investigated. Analysis of the resulting images yields with micro- and macro-scale insights into hydromechanical mechanisms to be obtained. This allows the cracking to be interpreted as a rapid breakdown in capillary suction (supposed large both to drying and rebound from in situ stress state) due to water arrival, which in turn causes a loss of effective stress, allowing cracks to propagate and deliver water further into the material.


Callovo Oxfordian clay-rock Digital volume correlation Hydromechanical behaviour Neutron imaging Water imbibition X-ray imaging 



Simon Salager and Pascal Charrier in Laboratoire 3SR are gratefully acknowledged for the simple but brilliant idea of using a sponge as a water reservoir. The authors would like to thank all the people who have helped make NeXT a reality, especially Benjamin Giroud and Jérôme Beaucour. Laboratoire 3SR is part of the LabEx Tec 21 (Investissements d’Avenir Grant Agreement No. ANR-11-LABX-0030). The first author would like to thank Andra for the financial support and the samples that allowed these experiments to happen.


  1. 1.
    Armand G, Noiret A, Zghondi J, Seyedi DM (2013) Short-and long-term behaviors of drifts in the Callovo–Oxfordian claystone at the Meuse/Haute-Marne Underground Research Laboratory. J Rock Mech Geotech Eng 5(3):221–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Armand G, Leveau F, Nussbaum C, de La Vaissiere R, Noiret A, Jaeggi D, Righini C (2014) Geometry and properties of the excavation-induced fractures at the Meuse/Haute-Marne URL drifts. Rock Mech Rock Eng 47(1):21–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Armand G, Bumbieler F, Conil N, de la Vaissière R, Bosgiraud J-M, Vu MN (2017) Main outcomes from in situ thermo-hydro-mechanical experiments programme to demonstrate feasibility of radioactive high-level waste disposal in the Callovo–Oxfordian claystone. J Rock Mech Geotech Eng 9(3):415–427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Armand G, Djizanne H, Zghondi J, de La Vaissière R, Talandier J, Conil N (2016) Inputs from in situ experiments to the understanding of the unsaturated behaviour of Callovo–Oxfordian claystone. In: E-UNSAT 2016.
  5. 5.
    Bornert M, Vales F, Gharbi H, Nguyen Minh D (2010) Multiscale full-field strain measurements for micromechanical investigations of the hydromechanical behavior of clayey rocks. Strain 46:33–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    de La Vaissière R, Armand G, Talandier J (2015) Gas and water flow in an excavation-induced fracture network around an underground drift: a case study for a radioactive waste repository in clay rock. J Hydrol 521:141–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Geers MGD, De Borst R, Brekelmans WAM (1996) Computing strain fields from discrete displacement fields in 2D-solids. Int J Solids Struct 33(29):4293–4307CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Guillon T, Giot R, Giraud A, Armand G (2012) Response of Callovo–Oxfordian claystone during drying tests: unsaturated hydromechanical behavior. Acta Geotech 7:313–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hedan S, Fauchille AL, Valle V, Cabrera J, Cosenza P (2014) One-year monitoring of desiccation cracks in Tournemire COx claystone using digital image correlation. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci 68(2014):22–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Jones E, Oliphant E, Peterson P et al (2001) 11SciPy: open source scientific tools for python, 2001. Accessed 7 May 2017
  11. 11.
    Kim FH, Penumadu D, Gregor J, Kardjilov N, Manke I (2012) High-resolution neutron and X-ray imaging of granular materials. J Geotech Geoenviron Eng 139(5):715–723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Kim FH, Penumadu D, Gregor J, Marsh M, Kardjilov N, Manke I (2014) Characterizing partially saturated compacted-sand specimen using 3D Image registration of high-resolution neutron and X-ray tomography. J Comput Civil Eng 29(6):04014096CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Lenoir N, Bornert M, Desrues J, Bésuelle P, Viggiani G (2007) Volumetric digital image correlation applied to X-ray microtomography images from triaxial compression tests on argillaceous rock. Strain 43(3):193–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Matray J-M, Savoye S, Cabrera J (2007) Desaturation and structure relationships around drifts excavated in the well-compacted Tournemire’s COx claystone (Aveyron, France). Eng Geol 90:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Menaceur H, Delage P, Tang AM, Conil N (2015) The thermo-mechanical behaviour of the Callovo–Oxfordian claystone. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci 78:290–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Menaceur H, Delage P, Tang AM, Talandier J (2016) The status of water in swelling shales: an insight from the water retention properties of the Callovo–Oxfordian claystone. Rock Mech Rock Eng 49(12):4571–4586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Montes HG, Duplay J, Martinez L, Escoffier S, Rousset D (2004) Structural modifications of Callovo–Oxfordian COx claystone under hydration/dehydration conditions. Appl Clay Sci 25:187–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Pham QT, Vales F, Malinsky L, Nguyen Minh D, Gharbi H (2007) Effects of desaturation–resaturation on mudstone. Phys Chem Earth 32:646–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Rinard P (1991) Neutron interactions with matter. In: Passive nondestructive assay of nuclear materials, pp 357–377. Accessed 15 Mar 2017
  20. 20.
    Stavropoulou E, Briffaut M, Dufour F, Camps G, Boulon M (2017) A new apparatus for testing the delayed mechanical behaviour of interfaces: the Shearing Interfaces Creep box (SInC box). Comptes Rendus Mécanique 345:417–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Stéfan van der Walt S, Colbert SC, Varoquaux G (2011) The NumPy array: a structure for efficient numerical computation. Comput Sci Eng 13:22–30. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Tengattini A, Atkins D, Giroud B, Andò E, Beaucour J, Viggiani G (2017) NeXT-Grenoble, a novel facility for neutron and X-ray tomography in Grenoble. In: Proceedings ICTMS2017Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Tudisco E, Jailin C, Mendoza A, Tengattini A, Andò E, Hall SA, Roux S (2017) An extension of digital volume correlation for multimodality image registration. Meas Sci Technol 28(9):095401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Tudisco E, Anò E, Cailletaud R, Hall SA (2017) TomoWarp2: a local digital volume correlation code. SoftwareX 6:267–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Vinsot A, Mettler S, Wechner S (2008) In situ characterization of the Callovo–Oxfordian pore water composition. Phys Chem Earth Parts A/B/C 33:S75–S86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Wang L, Bornert M, Chanchole S (2013) Micro-scale experimental investigation of deformation and damage of argillaceous rocks under hydric and mechanical loads. In: Poromechanics V, pp 1635–1643Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Zhang C, Rothfuchs T (2004) Experimental study of the hydro-mechanical behaviour of the Callovo–Oxfordian argillite. Appl Clay Sci 26(1):325–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, Grenoble INP3SRGrenobleFrance
  2. 2.Agence Nationale pour la gestion des Déchets Radioactifs (Andra)Châtenay-MalabryFrance
  3. 3.Institute Laue-LangevinGrenoble Cedex 9France

Personalised recommendations