The dissimilatory reduction of nitrate, or denitrification, offers the potential of a sustainable, cost effective method for the non-disruptive mitigation of earthquake-induced soil liquefaction. Worldwide, trillions of dollars of infrastructure are at risk for liquefaction damage in earthquake prone regions. However, most techniques for remediating liquefiable soils are either not applicable to sites near existing infrastructure, or are prohibitively expensive. Recently, laboratory studies have shown the potential for biogeotechnical soil improvement techniques such as microbially induced carbonate precipitation (MICP) to mitigate liquefaction potential in a non-disruptive manner. Multiple microbial processes have been identified for MICP, but only two have been extensively studied. Ureolysis, the most commonly studied process for MICP, has been shown to quickly and efficiently induce carbonate precipitation on particle surfaces and at particle contacts to improve the stiffness, strength, and dilatant behavior of liquefiable soils. However, ureolysis also produces copious amounts of ammonium, a potentially toxic byproduct. The second process studied for MICP, denitrification, has been shown to precipitate carbonate, and hence improve soil properties, much more slowly than ureolysis. However, the byproducts of denitrification, nitrogen and carbon dioxide gas, are non-toxic, and present the added benefit of rapidly desaturating the treated soil. Small amounts of desaturation have been shown to increase the cyclic resistance, and hence the liquefaction resistance, of liquefiable soils. So, denitrification offers the potential to mitigate liquefaction as a two-stage process, with desaturation providing short term mitigation, and MICP providing long term liquefaction resistance. This study presents the results of soil testing, stoichiometric modeling, and microbial ecology characterization to better characterize the potential use of denitrification as a two-stage process for liquefaction mitigation.
- Mitigation of earthquake-induced soil liquefaction via microbial denitrification: a two-stage process