With the growth of global population, the demand for sustainable infrastructure is significantly increasing. Substructures with appropriate materials are required to be built in or above soil that can support the massive volume of construction demand. However, increased structural requirements often require ground improvement to increase the soil capacity. Moreover, certain soils are prone to liquefaction during an earthquake, which results in significant structural damage and loss of lives. While various soil treatment methods have been developed in the past to improve the soil’s load carrying ability, most of these traditional treatment methods have been found either hazardous and may cause irreversible damage to natural environment, or too disruptive to use beneath or adjacent to existing structures. Thus, alternative techniques are required to provide a more natural and sustainable solution. Biomediated methods of strengthening soil through mineral precipitation, in particular through microbially induced carbonate precipitation (MICP), have recently emerged as a promising means of soil improvement. In MICP, the precipitation of carbonate (usually in the form of calcium carbonate) is mediated by microorganisms and the process is referred to as biomineralization. The precipitated carbonate coats soil particles, precipitates in the voids, and bridges between soil particles, thereby improving the mechanical properties (e.g., strength, stiffness, and dilatancy). Although it has been reported that the soil’s mechanical properties can be extensively enhanced through MICP, the micro-scale mechanisms that influence the macro-scale constitutive response remain to be clearly explained.
The utilization of alternative techniques such as MICP requires an in-depth understanding of the particle-scale contact mechanisms and the ability to predict the improvement in soil properties resulting from calcite precipitation. For this purpose, the discrete element method (DEM), which is extensively used to investigate granular materials, is adopted in this dissertation. Three-dimensional discrete element method (DEM) based numerical models are developed to simulate the response of bio-cemented sand under static and dynamic loading conditions and the micro-scale mechanisms of MICP are numerically investigated. Special focus is paid to the understanding of the particle scale mechanisms that are dominant in the common laboratory scale experiments including undrained and drained triaxial compression when calcite bridges are present in the soil, that enhances its load capacity. The mechanisms behind improvement of liquefaction resistance in cemented sands are also elucidated through the use of DEM. The thesis thus aims to provide the fundamental link that is important in ensuring proper material design for granular materials to enhance their mechanical performance.
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