Stress effects on thermal conductivity of soils and heat transfer efficiency of energy piles in the saturated and unsaturated soils

She-qiang Cui, Chao Zhou, Jin-quan Liu, Damilola Akinniyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Soils surrounding energy piles are often subjected to high overburden pressure. So far, the stress effects on the thermal conductivity of soils and hence the thermal performance of energy piles have not been well investigated. This study proposed a new model for the stress-dependent thermal conductivity of saturated and unsaturated soils. It was validated using the data from a series of new tests and the literature and is able to capture stress induced variations of thermal conductivity. Then, it was applied to finite element analysis of energy piles’heat transfer efficiency. The numerical results reveal that ignoring stress effects on thermal conductivity, as in the conventional analysis, underestimates the heat exchange rate between energy piles and ground. The underestimation is more significant for piles with a larger aspect ratio and a faster pipe flow velocity, especially when the ground is drier and more compressible. For example, when the pile is 0.6 m in diameter and 50 in aspect ratio, the underestimation is up to 18%, 15% and 4% for the clay, silt and sand, respectively. These results
suggest that stress effects on thermal conductivity should be considered for better assessing the heat transfer efficiency of energy piles and other thermal geostructures.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105549
Number of pages13
JournalComputers and Geotechnics
Early online date24 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


The National Science Foundation of China supports this work through research grant 52022004 . The authors also would like to thank the Research Grants Council (RGC) of the HKSAR for providing financial support through grant 15200120 . This work was also supported by RISUD/ PolyU under Grant 1-BBWS . Publisher Copyright: © 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Thermal conductivity
  • Stress effects
  • Energy pile
  • Unsaturated soil
  • Heat exchange rate


Dive into the research topics of 'Stress effects on thermal conductivity of soils and heat transfer efficiency of energy piles in the saturated and unsaturated soils'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this