What is “Mechanical” Soil Stabilization?

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What is “Mechanical” Soil Stabilization?

Ionic soil stabilization, like the leading products provided by RoadPacker solutions, is categorized as “chemical” soil stabilization. This is because, chemical soil stabilization solutions improve the engineering properties of soil by adding chemicals or other materials to improve the existing soil. This technique is generally cost-effective: for example, the cost, transportation and application of a stabilizing agent to treat an in place soil material is almost always more economical than importing aggregate for the same thickness of the base course.

However, there is another category of soil stabilization: “mechanical”.

This is a more traditional approach (however, it’s still used today, in some cases) and refers to either compaction or the introduction of fibrous and other non- biodegradable reinforcements to the soil. This practice does not require chemical change of the soil.

There are several methods used to achieve mechanical stabilization.

1. Compaction

Compaction typically employs a heavy weight to increase the soil density by applying pressure from above. Machines such as large soil compactors with vibrating steel drums are often used for this purpose. Here, over compaction of the soil should be avoided and given great consideration because in the case of over compaction, the aggregates get crushed and the soil loses its engineering properties.

2. Soil Reinforcement

Soil problems are sometimes remedied by engineered or non-engineered mechanical solutions. Geo-textiles and engineered plastic mesh are designed to trap soils and help control erosion, moisture conditions and soil permeability. Larger aggregates such as gravel, stones and boulders are often employed where additional mass and rigidity can prevent soil migration or improve load-bearing properties.

3. Addition of Graded Aggregate Materials

A common method of improving the engineered characteristics of a soil is to add certain aggregates that lend desirable attributes to the soil such as increased strength or decreased plasticity. This method provides material economy, improves support capabilities of the subgrade and furnishes a working platform for the remaining structure.

4. Mechanical Remediation

Traditionally this has been the accepted practice to deal with soil contamination. This is a technique where contaminated soil is physically removed and relocated to a designated hazardous waste facility far from centers of human population. In recent times however, chemical and bioremediation have proven to be a better solution both economically and environmentally.

Mechanical soil stabilization techniques have proven popular in the 70s, 80s and 90s, prior to the development of advanced environmentally-friendly, chemical soil stabilization methods, such as ionic soil stabilization. Mechanical methods are less environmentally-friendly, more expensive to complete and result in a a greater amount of needed maintenance. For these reasons, fewer road construction projects rely on these approached and, instead, apply a custom chemical solution.

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