Soil stability

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Soil stability

Soil stability is a general term for any physical, chemical, biological, or combined method of changing a natural soil to meet an engineering purpose.[1] Improvements include increasing the weight bearing capabilities and performance of in-situ subsoils, sands, and other waste materials in order to strengthen road surfaces. The prime objective of Soil Stabilization is to improve the California Bearing Ratio of in-situ soils by 4 to 6 times. The other prime objective of soil stabilization is to improve on-site materials to create a solid and strong sub-base and base courses. In certain regions of the world, typically developing countries and now more frequently in developed countries, soil stabilization is being used to construct the entire road. Originally, soil stabilization was done by utilizing the binding properties of clay soils, cement-based products such as soil cement, and/or utilizing the "rammed earth" technique (soil compaction) and lime. Some of the renewable technologies are: enzymes, surfactants, biopolymers, synthetic polymers, co-polymer based products, cross-linking styrene acrylic polymers, tree resins, ionic stabilizers, fiber reinforcement, calcium chloride, calcite, sodium chloride, magnesium chloride and more. Some of these new stabilizing techniques create hydrophobic surfaces and mass that prevent road failure from water penetration or heavy frosts by inhibiting the ingress of water into the treated layer.

However, recent technology has increased the number of traditional additives used for soil stabilization purposes. Such non-traditional stabilizers include: Polymer based products (e.g. cross-linking water-based styrene acrylic polymers that significantly improves the load-bearing capacity and tensile strength of treated soils), Copolymer Based Products, fiber reinforcement, calcium chloride, and Sodium Chloride. Traditionally and widely accepted types of soil stabilization techniques use products such as bitumen emulsions which can be used as a binding agents for producing a road base. However, bitumen is not environmentally friendly and becomes brittle when it dries out. Portland cement has been used as an alternative to soil stabilization. However, this can often be expensive and is not a very good "green" alternative. Cement fly ash, lime fly ash (separately, or with cement or lime), bitumen, tar, cement kiln dust (CKD), tree resin and ionic stabilizers are all commonly used stabilizing agents.

There are advantages and disadvantages to many of these soil stabilizers. Many of the "green" products have essentially the same formula as soap powders, merely lubricating and realigning the soil with no effective binding property. Many of the new approaches rely on large amounts of clay with its inherent binding properties. Bitumen, tar emulsions, asphalt, cement, lime can be used as a binding agents for producing a road base. When using such products issues such as safety, health and the environment must be considered. The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) has explored some of the newer types of soil stabilization technology, specifically looking for "effective and green" alternatives. One of the examples utilizes new soil stabilization technology, a process based on cross-linking styrene acrylic polymer. Another example uses long crystals to create a closed cell formation that is impermeable to water and is frost, acid, and salt resistant. Utilizing new soil stabilization technology, a process of cross-linking within the polymeric formulation can replace traditional road/house construction methods in an environmentally friendly and effective way. There is another soil stabilization method called the Deep Mixing method that is non-destructive and effective at improving load bearing capacity of weak or loose soil strata. This method uses a small, penny-sized injection probe and minimizes debris. This method is ideal for re-compaction and consolidation of weak soil strata, increasing and improving load bearing capacity under structures and the remediation of shallow and deep sinkhole problems. This is particular efficient when there is a need to support deficient public and private infrastructure.


  1. Winterkorn, Hans F. and Sibel Pamukcu. "Soil Stabilization and Grouting", Foundation Engineering Handbook. Fang, Hsai, ed. 2.nd ed. New York, NY: VanNostrand Reinhold, 1991. 317. Print.

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