Desiccation Cracking Behavior of Clayey Soils Treated with Biocement and Bottom Ash Admixture during Wetting–Drying Cycles

Mark Vail, Cheng Zhu, Chao Sheng Tang, Nate Maute, Melissa Tababa Montalbo-Lomboy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Desiccation cracking considerably impairs the hydraulic and mechanical properties of clayey soils that are critical to the long-term performance of infrastructure foundations and earth structures. Typical crack remediation methods are associated with high labor and maintenance costs or the use of environmentally unfriendly chemicals. Recycling waste materials and developing biomediated techniques have emerged as green, sustainable soil stabilization solutions. The objective of this study was to investigate the feasibility of soil crack remediation through use of bottom ash admixtures and microbial-induced calcite precipitation (MICP). We carried out cyclic wetting–drying tests to characterize the effects of bottom ash and MICP on the desiccation cracking behaviors of bentonite soils. Two groups of soil samples that contained different percentages of bottom ash (0%, 20%, 40% by weight) were prepared for cyclic water and MICP treatments, respectively. The desiccation cracking patterns captured by a high-resolution camera were quantified using image processing. We also employed scanning electron microscopy for microstructural characterizations. Experimental results revealed that cyclic water treatment resulted in more cracking, whereas cyclic MICP treatment improved soil strength owing to the precipitation of calcite crystals on the soil particle surface and inside the interparticle pores. Adding bottom ash to bentonite reduced the plasticity of the mixture, promoted the flocculation of clay particles by cation exchange, and also provided soluble calcium to enhance calcite precipitation. This study demonstrates the potential of bottom ash and MICP for crack remediation and brings new insights into the design and assessment of sustainable infrastructures under climate changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-454
Number of pages14
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Desiccation Cracking Behavior of Clayey Soils Treated with Biocement and Bottom Ash Admixture during Wetting–Drying Cycles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this