Geotechnical centrifuges

The geotechnical research centrifuge is a 50g-tonne 4m diameter beam centrifuge, manufactured by Thomas Broadbent & Sons Ltd. Research focuses on themes of energy, hazards and infrastructure to engineer a more sustainable future.


About the centrifuge

CEIGR - 4m diameter 50g-ton geotechnical beam centrifuge facility

The geotechnical research centrifuge at the University of Sheffield is a 50g-tonne 4m diameter beam centrifuge, manufactured by Thomas Broadbent & Sons Ltd. It was commissioned in 2014, with research focusing on themes of Energy, Hazards and Infrastructure to engineer a more sustainable future.

The 1m diameter “mini-beam” teaching centrifuge was developed as part of a Royal Academy of Engineering, National Higher Educational STEM Programme award in 2012. It is aimed at teaching and demonstrating the fundamental scaling laws and issues associated with centrifuge physical modelling across a range of ground and foundation engineering problems.

Physical modelling at prototype stresses can provide enhanced understanding of soil-structure interaction behaviour, under carefully controlled boundary conditions, leading to better geotechnical design and the development of innovative engineering solutions. 

We can also make use of centrifuge scaling laws to uniquely investigate fundamental physical processes of fluid flow through granular media. This can enable accelerated timescales to be modelled compared to the field for continuum processes such as seepage in clay and the uncoupling of particle-fluid-pressure problems for processes such as seepage induced internal erosion.

Various model strong boxes are available, including both axisymmetric and plane strain “window” boxes for imaging at the side walls. Actuation, fluid injection, and a large range of sensors (e.g. PPT, loadcells etc) and imaging cameras are available for testing in flight. Model preparation is assisted by automatic pluviation systems and consolidation rigs.

The small teaching centrifuge can also be used to examine research ideas at a preliminary stage. Small model containers are available to be used in a “plug and play” mode for rapid testing. 


Academic staff:

Dr Lis Bowman - Reader in Geomechanics

Dr Tiago Gaspar - Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering

Dr Alessandro Leonardi - Lecturer in Geomechanics

Prof. Colin Smith - Professor of Geomechanics

Prof. Sam Clarke - Professor of Blast Geotechnics

Dr John Cripps - Senior Lecturer - retired (

Technical staff:

Dr Paul Bentley - Senior Experimental Officer, Electronics & Instruments (
Paul Blackbourn - Senior Engineering Technician & Workshop Supervisor (
Alex Cargill - Senior Engineering Technician (
Mark Foster - Senior Technician (
Paul Osborne - Laboratory Supervisor (

Contact us

The centrifuge facilities are located in the Sir Frederick Mappin Building, Mining Block (Room 1802). You can find them using this campus map.


For enquiries, please contact Dr Lis Bowman.

The University of Sheffield
Department of Civil and Structural Engineering
Sir Frederick Mappin Building
Mappin Street
S1 3JD
United Kingdom

Our league table rankings

Top 100 Civil & Structural Engineering department in the world and 9th in the UK according to the QS World University rankings by subject (2023).

8th in the UK according to the Complete University Guide (2023).

10th in the UK according to the Times University League Table (2023).

A global reputation

Sheffield is a research university with a global reputation for excellence. We're a member of the Russell Group: one of the 24 leading UK universities for research and teaching.