Role of Composition, Structure and Physico-Chemical Environment on Stabilisation of Kuttanad Soil
Soft soil deposits of coastal regions and lowland areas pose many geotechnical problems but it is indispensable to utilize these grounds to meet the growing demand for infrastructure with ever increasing urbanization and industrial development. Soft soils are generally associated with high compressibility and low strength characteristics which augment the risk of huge settlements and foundation failure. It is essential to understand the complex behaviour of the ground consisting of soft clays as construction and maintenance of infrastructure in these areas is challenging. Marine sediments mostly possess open microstructure irrespective of the differences in their mineral composition and sedimentation environment. Also this particular microstructure in marine sediments is generally accompanied by the presence of a great amount of organic residues and fragments of marine organisms. Formation of pyrite is also possible because of the presence of decomposable organic matter, dissolved sulfate and reactive iron minerals. These soils due to their inherent mineralogy and microstructure have high void ratios and consequently high water holding capacity which explains the reason for their low shear strength and high compressibility characteristics. And often the formation environment is conducive for incorporation of organic content in the soft clay deposits which further aggravates the problem. A complete characterization of the soil can enhance the understanding of soil behavior and therefore can play a crucial role in suggesting suitable and sustainable ground improvement method. Soft clay deposits of Kuttanad area in Kerala, India extending to varying depths below the ground level, present a challenge as a foundation soil due to low bearing capacity and high settlement. Geologically Kuttanad is considered as a recent sedimentary formation. In the geological past, the entire area was a part of the Arabian Sea. Presently Kuttanad area covers an area of about 1,100 km2. Many intriguing reports of distresses to structures founded on this soil are available. An over view of specific characteristics of soft clays along with the comprehensive description of soft clays from various parts of the world is presented in the introductory Chapter. Deep soil mixing and mass stabilization methods are found to be relatively advantageous in reducing differential settlements and in achieving expeditious construction. A more detailed review of literature on Kuttanad soil problems and various ground improvement methods adopted are presented. The different ground improvement techniques attempted are soil reinforcement, stone columns, preloading etc. Soil mixing can be relatively advantageous over the other conventional ground improvement methods. Laboratory studies carried out earlier with different binders such as cement, lime and lime fly ash combinations did not exhibit appreciable improvement in soil strength. It is reasoned that the lack of understanding of the soil characteristics is responsible for the limited success of these attempts. Based on the review of literature the detailed scope of the work is presented at the end of Chapter 1. The method of collection of the soil from Kuttanad region, methods adopted for characterization of soil, characteristics of various binders used and testing procedures adopted for assessing the geotechnical behavior with and without binders are described in Chapter 2. In order to characterize the soil for understanding its behaviour under different conditions as well as to gauge its response to different stabilizers, a detailed physico¬chemical, mineralogical, morphological and fabric studies are carried out and presented in Chapter 3. An attempt has been made to explain the role of components of soils such as organic substances, pyrite and sesquioxides for variations in its properties with change in water content. The high water holding capacity of the soil reflected in its Liquid limit along with relatively low plasticity characteristics of the soil has been explained as due to the presence of minerals such as metahalloysite and gibbsite, the flocculated fabric, porous organic matter and water filled diatom frustules (amorphous silica). Based on the study conducted on the plasticity characteristics of Kuttanad soil under different conditions of drying and treatment, it was brought about that the organic content plays a dominant role in particle cementation and aggregation causing a substantial reduction in plasticity upon drying. Further, the presence of minerals such as pyrite and iron oxides also account for the plasticity changes. The significant changes in soil properties upon drying have also been successfully explained in Chapter 4. Attempts made to stabilize the soil using conventional chemical stabilizers are described in Chapter 5. The effect of binders on the strength improvement of soil has been explained based on the changes occurring in the composition, fabric and physico-chemical characteristics of soil upon addition of the binders. Lack of strength development in soil with lime has been attributed to the inherent composition of the soil hindering the formation of pozzolanic compounds and unfavourable modification of the fabric. On the other hand the soil responded well to cement stabilisation. The influence of various parameters such as Water/Cement (W/C) ratio, Initial water content, curing period and additive dosage on the strength development of cement treated soil has been examined. Cement improved the strength of the soil by binding the soil particles without depending on the interaction with the soil. It was observed that the role of initial water content is insignificant and the strength improved with reducing W/C ratio. The dependence of strength development with cement addition on the fabric at different W/C ratios has been assessed. Also the role of other additives such as Lime, Sand, Fly Ash, Ground granulated blast furnace slag, Silica fume and Sodium silicate to enhance the strength of cement treated soil has been analysed in Chapter 5. It was shown that only Sodium Silicate (NS) along with cement meets with good success. The studies on the undrained shear strength and compressibility characteristics of cemented soil carried out to understand the strength and deformation behaviour of the cemented soil are presented in Chapter 6. It is clear from the compressibility characteristics of the cemented soil that there is a well defined yield stress demarcating the least compressible pre-yield zone and more compressible post yield zone. Generally the yield stress increases with reducing water cement ratio. It is interesting to note that the post yield compressibility of the cemented soil is controlled more by the fabric of soil than by cementation effect. The study on the undrained shear behavior of cemented soil revealed that the cohesion intercept and angle of internal friction increases with addition of cement. However the impact of cementation is reflected more as increase in cohesion intercept with increasing cement content. The uniqueness of failure envelope observed for the cemented soil irrespective of whether the confining stress is above or below the yield stress has been explained in detail. A case study on the performance of embankment founded on Kuttand soil improved with Deep mixed cement columns (DMCC) has been evaluated through numerical simulations using FLAC 2D and this forms the subject matter of Chapter 7. For this work the soil properties of the Kuttanad soil determined by experimental investigations have been used. The simulation results showed that the introduction of DMCC columns improved the factor of safety against failure and reduced settlements. This study clearly endorses the analysis and the results of the test carried out on Kuttanad soil. The final chapter summarizes the details of the work carried out which brings out the importance of characterization of the soil in terms of soil components, physico-chemical environment as well as the micro structure of the soil in predicting the behaviour of the soil in changing environment and to understand the stabilization response of the soil with different binders which intern helps to select appropriate binder and or binder combinations.
- Civil Engineering (CiE)