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Enzyme Induced Carbonate Precipitation (EICP) for Soil Improvement

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This dissertation presents an investigation of calcium carbonate precipitation via hydrolysis of urea (ureolysis) catalyzed by plant-extracted urease enzyme for soil improvement. In this approach to soil improvement, referred to

This dissertation presents an investigation of calcium carbonate precipitation via hydrolysis of urea (ureolysis) catalyzed by plant-extracted urease enzyme for soil improvement. In this approach to soil improvement, referred to as enzyme induced carbonate precipitation (EICP), carbonate minerals are precipitated within the soil pores, cementing soil particles together and increasing the dilatancy of the soil. EICP is a bio-inspired solution to improving the properties of cohesionless soil in that no living organisms are engaged in the process, though it uses a biologically-derived material (urease enzyme).

Over the past decade, research has commenced on biologically-mediated solutions like microbially induced carbonate precipitation (MICP) and biologically-inspired solutions like EICP for non-disruptive ground improvement. Both of these approaches rely upon hydrolysis of urea catalyzed by the enzyme urease. Under the right environmental conditions (e.g., pH), the hydrolysis of urea leads to calcium carbonate precipitation in the presence of Ca^(2+). The rate of carbonate precipitation via hydrolysis of urea can be up to 〖10〗^14 times faster than natural process.

The objective of this research was to ascertain the effectiveness of EICP for soil improvement via hydrolysis of urea (ureolysis) catalyzed by plant-extracted urease enzyme. Elements of this work include: 1) systematic experiments to identify an optimum EICP treatment solution; 2) evaluation of the mechanical properties of EICP-treated soil under different treatment conditions and with varying carbonate contents; 3) investigation of the potential for enhancing the EICP stabilization process by including xanthan gum, natural sisal fiber, and powdered of dried non-fat milk in the EICP treatment solution; and 4) bench-scale studies of the use of EICP to make sub-horizontal columns of cemented soil for soil nailing and vertical columns of cemented soil for foundation support. As part of this research, the effect of three preparation methods (mix-and-compact, percolation, and injection) was also examined as was the influence of the grain size of soil. The results of this study should help make the EICP technique an attractive option for geotechnical engineers for ground improvement and stimulate the development and use of other biogeotechnical techniques for civil engineering purposes.

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Date Created
  • 2017

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Applications of enzyme induced carbonate precipitation (EICP) for soil improvement

Description

In enzyme induced carbonate precipitation (EICP), calcium carbonate (CaCO3) precipitation is catalyzed by plant-derived urease enzyme. In EICP, urea hydrolyzes into ammonia and inorganic carbon, altering geochemical conditions in

In enzyme induced carbonate precipitation (EICP), calcium carbonate (CaCO3) precipitation is catalyzed by plant-derived urease enzyme. In EICP, urea hydrolyzes into ammonia and inorganic carbon, altering geochemical conditions in a manner that promotes carbonate mineral precipitation. The calcium source in this process comes from calcium chloride (CaCl2) in aqueous solution. Research work conducted for this dissertation has demonstrated that EICP can be employed for a variety of geotechnical purposes, including mass soil stabilization, columnar soil stabilization, and stabilization of erodible surficial soils. The research presented herein also shows that the optimal ratio of urea to CaCl2 at ionic strengths of less than 1 molar is approximately 1.75:1. EICP solutions of very high initial ionic strength (i.e. 6 M) as well as high urea concentrations (> 2 M) resulted in enzyme precipitation (salting-out) which hindered carbonate precipitation. In addition, the production of NH4+ may also result in enzyme precipitation. However, enzyme precipitation appeared to be reversible to some extent. Mass soil stabilization was demonstrated via percolation and mix-and-compact methods using coarse silica sand (Ottawa 20-30) and medium-fine silica sand (F-60) to produce cemented soil specimens whose strength improvement correlated with CaCO3 content, independent of the method employed to prepare the specimen. Columnar stabilization, i.e. creating columns of soil cemented by carbonate precipitation, using Ottawa 20-30, F-60, and native AZ soil was demonstrated at several scales beginning with small columns (102-mm diameter) and culminating in a 1-m3 soil-filled box. Wind tunnel tests demonstrated that surficial soil stabilization equivalent to that provided by thoroughly wetting the soil can be achieved through a topically-applied solution of CaCl2, urea, and the urease enzyme. The topically applied solution was shown to form an erosion-resistant CaCO3 crust on fine sand and silty soils. Cementation of erodible surficial soils was also achieved via EICP by including a biodegradable hydrogel in the stabilization solution. A dilute hydrogel solution extended the time frame over which the precipitation reaction could occur and provided improved spatial control of the EICP solution.

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Date Created
  • 2015