Rock mechanics

Academic year
Subject Area
Language of Instruction
Mode of Delivery
ECTS Credits
1st Cycle Studies

Recommended Prerequisites

Engineering Geology; Soil Mechanics; Foundations; Continuum Mechanics.

Teaching Methods

Theoretical classes, where the concepts, principles and fundamental theories related to the behavior rock masses are presented with detail. Problems concerning the topics covered are proposed and solved.

Theoretical-practical classes where the students solve exercises from the unit’s practical material, with guidance from the teacher. This solution involves frequently the use of professional software as a learning aid and this has also the advantage of exposing the students to design tools that they will encounter on their professional practice. These classes include the performance of geophysical seismic refraction tests, including data processing and presentation of the report.

Learning Outcomes

Present the students to the specific concepts of Rock Mechanics, with particular emphasis on its application to problems of underground works, slopes and foundations.

Regarding generic competencies, the unit aims that the students develop analysis and syntheses skills, problem solving competences, work in group, critic thought and use of theoretical concepts on practical situations. Besides these, competences on oral a written communication, use of the internet as communication tool and source of information, in understanding the language of other specialists and self-learning are also pursued.

Work Placement(s)



1. Rock

Geological classification and indices.

2. Weathering of the rock

Weathering processes (chemical, physical and alteration associated to slopes).

3. Subsurface investigation

Exploration programs; geological mapping (maps and profiles); boreholes in rock masses; geophysical testing.

4. Discontinuity surfaces

Characterization, presentation of data; shear strength.

5. Classification systems of rock masses

Rock Mass Rating (RMR); Quality index (Q).

6. Strength and deformability of rock

Failure mechanisms; Lab tests; anisotropy; failure criteria (Mohr-Coulomb and Hoek-Brown).

7. Strength and deformability of rock masses

Failure criteria; Geological Strength Index (GSI); deformability moduli.

8. Internal stresses in rock masses

9. Applications of Rock Mechanics

 Underground works; slope; foundations.

Assessment Methods

Two projects: 40.0%
Exam: 60.0%


• Pinto, P.L. (2005) – Apontamentos sobre Mecânica das Rochas, DEC-FCTUC

• Goodman, R. E. (1989) - Introduction to Rock Mechanics, 2nd ed., Wiley, New York.

• Hoek, E. (2007) - Practical Rock Engineering.

• Hudson, J. A. e Harrison, J. P. (1997) - Engineering rock mechanics: an introduction to the principles, Oxford: Pergamon.

• Vallejo, L. G., Ferrer, M., Ortuño, L. e Oteo, C. (2002) - Ingeniería Geológica, Pearson Educación, Madrid.