The UPC’s Maritime Engineering Laboratory develops a system to protect beaches from erosion and flooding

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Beach behaviour is tested in the LIM’s Maritime Investigation and Experimentation Channel

The UPC’s Maritime Engineering Laboratory (LIM) is testing a project at the Maritime Research and Experimentation Channel to determine the feasibility of adapting sand-filled geotextile bags for use on beaches.

Jan 10, 2019

The initiative carried out by the Maritime Engineering Laboratory (LIM) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) is part of the research activities of the European project Hydralab IV, which is the main network of hydraulic laboratories worldwide. It was created in 1996 and the UPC is one of its founding partners.

The study is led by the researcher Agustín Sánchez-Arcilla and focuses on determining the feasibility of protecting a type of beach with sand-filled bags made of geotextile (a flexible fabric of synthetic fibres). In summer the bags remain below the sand and in winter, when there is a greater risk of erosion and flooding, they are exposed. These bags, which have already been used on American, Australian and European coasts, can be adapted to the changing climate, the sea level and the waves in order to protect the backshore from erosion and floods



The behaviour of the beaches is being tested on a large scale (1:2 and 1:3) in the LIM’s Maritime Research and Experimentation Channel, and will allow the results to be extrapolated to the real scale of beaches.

A coast in precarious balance
Climate change is already affecting coastal areas. The main factors involved are the rising sea level, which is causing widespread erosion along the whole coastline, and small changes in wave storms.

The Catalan coast has a great deficit of sand due to urban development and the very small tidal range. These features are typical of the Mediterranean Sea and make it easier to implement the system of geotechnical bags, as they always remain in the same location with respect to the coastline.

A benchmark laboratory in Europe
The UPC’s Maritime Engineering Laboratory, linked to the Barcelona School of Civil Engineering, is a research centre dedicated to knowledge creation and transfer in the fields of maritime engineering and marine sciences. It has facilities for experimentally verifying its research projects, one of which is the Maritime Research and Experimentation Channel. This facility generates waves and currents in combination for hydraulic trials in port, coastal and oceanographic engineering, as well as in other areas such as energy production from marine resources and aquaculture.

This 100x3x7 m channel, recognised as a Large Scale Facility by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research, is considered a Scientific-Technical Installation (ICTS) by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Education. In addition, it is funded by the European Union as a reference research facility for EU countries and partners to carry out scientific trials to deal with climate change in the Hydralab+ project.