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Geomicrobiology Journal

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Microbially Induced Calcite Precipitation for

Seepage Control in Sandy Soil

Yufeng Gao, Xinyi Tang, Jian Chu & Jia He

To cite this article: Yufeng Gao, Xinyi Tang, Jian Chu & Jia He (2019): Microbially Induced
Calcite Precipitation for Seepage Control in Sandy Soil, Geomicrobiology Journal, DOI:

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Published online: 24 Jan 2019.

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Microbially Induced Calcite Precipitation for Seepage Control in Sandy Soil

Yufeng Gaoa,b, Xinyi Tanga,b, Jian Chuc, and Jia Hea,b
Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education for Geomechanics and Embankment Engineering, Hohai University, Nanjing, China;
Jiangsu Research Center for Geotechnical Engineering Technology, Hohai University, Nanjing, China; cSchool of Civil and Environmental
Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


Microbially induced calcite precipitation (MICP) can reduce the permeability of soil by reducing Received 14 July 2017
the pore volumes. A MICP-based soil improvement method to control water leakage in irrigation Accepted 3 December 2018
channels and reservoirs built on sandy soil grounds is presented in this article. Using this method,
a low-permeable hard crust can be formed at the soil surfaces. An experimental study was carried
Microbially induced calcite
out to evaluate the effect of this method. Sandy soil samples were treated using four different precipitation; permeabil-
schemes, namely, (1) surface spray, (2) surface spray with the addition of fibers, (3) surface spray ity; ureolysis
and bulk stabilization, and (4) immersion stabilization. By applying around 2.6 L treatment liquid
(consisting of ureolytic bacteria, 0.5 mol/L calcium chloride and 0.5 mol/L urea) to the top 2-cm
thick soil, the seepage rates of the samples treated by the four different schemes could be
reduced by up to 379 times. The conversion rates of calcium source in the tests were up to
89.7%. The results showed that a method of treating the soil in bulk before the formation of a
crust on top of the soil layer was effective in reducing the seepage rates. After the bio-treatment,
the formed low-permeable hard crust layer was 10 to 20 mm thick with a calcite content higher
than 5%. Below the hard crusts, the calcite content was less than 5% and the soil was not prop-
erly cemented. Using the mercury intrusion test, it was found that both pore volumes and pore
sizes of the bio-treated soil reduced significantly as compared with the untreated soil. Penetration
tests using a flat-bottom penetrometer were used to assess the mechanical behavior of the bio-
treated soil. The results indicated that the penetration resistance of the bio-treated soil layer was
much higher than that of the untreated soil.

Introduction to be used in large scale. New materials and methods have

been tested for the leakage control in soils, such as extracellu-
In arid regions in China, efficient utilization of water
lar polymeric substances (EPS) (Blauw et al. 2009; Lentz
resources is still a challenge. Many reservoirs and channels
2007; Proto et al. 2016; Ragusa et al. 1994; Tang et al. 2018a,
are built in wind-formed sandy soils. This type of soil usu- 2018b). The production of EPS in soils can significantly
ally consists of almost pure sand particles. As a result, the reduce the permeability of soils by clogging soil pores and
permeability of the ground soil is high and the leakage prob- increase the viscosity of pore water. However, EPS can be
lem is severe. In China, around 80% irrigation channels do degraded by some other microbes, and EPS does not contrib-
not have any leakage control measures (Li 2000). More than ute greatly to the strength of soils. So, the stability of soil
half the water resources for agricultural use are wasted in properties treated by EPS is questionable. Besides, this new
the process of transportation. In this condition, solutions are method is still in development and has not yet been used in
required for the control of water leakage in sandy large-scale applications.
soil ground. Microbial mineral precipitation processes are widespread
Conventional engineering measures for the control of in nature. Calcite, the stable form of calcium carbonate, can
leakage involves compacted clay liners, bentonite liners, geo- be produced by several microbial reactions, such as micro-
membranes, concrete covers, polymer coatings, etc. Clay lin- bial ureolysis and microbial denitrification reactions (Al
ers and bentonite liners have very low permeability. The Qabany and Soga 2013; Li et al. 2017; Van Paassen et al.
typical permeability values range from 104 to 1010 cm/s 2010; Whiffin et al. 2007). This process is named microbially
(Dong et al. 2015). Cracks can develop in clay and induced calcite precipitation (MICP). Ureolysis-based MICP
bentonite due to volume shrinkage in dry conditions. as a soil modification method for increasing the strength or
Impermeable concretes have 107–1012 cm/s permeability. reducing the permeability has been adopted in most related
Geomembranes have 1011–1013 cm/s permeability. studies (DeJong et al. 2013). In this method, urea is hydro-
However, these two types of materials are relatively expensive lyzed into ammonium and carbonate by the ureolytic

CONTACT Jia He Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education for Geomechanics and Embankment Engineering, Hohai University, Nanjing
210098, China
ß 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

bacteria. The hydrolyzation of urea also leads to the net

increase of pH due to the ionic equilibrium (Mobley and
Hausinger 1989). If aqueous calcium is present in the sys-
tem, calcite can be precipitated. The reaction is as follows:
ureolytic bacteria
NH2 CONH2 þ 2H2 O ! 2NH4 þ þ CO3 2 [1]

Ca2þ þ CO3 2 ! CaCO3 # [2]

Bacteria have a strong tendency to attach to surfaces of
soil particles. When calcite is formed around the bacterial
cells, it can fill soil pores, bridge soil particles, and in turn
reduce the permeability and improve the strength of soils.
In recent years, the MICP process has been extensively
studied for different applications in civil engineering and
constructions. The MICP process can result in a persistent
reduction in soil permeability. This method can be used for
the construction of reservoirs (Chu et al. 2012, 2013; Figure 1. Photograph of the soil particles.
Stabnikov et al. 2011), the control of water flow-induced soil
erosion (Jiang et al. 2017; Jiang and Soga 2017), and the for- soil particles is presented in Figure 1. The result of the XRD
mation of barrier to control contaminant migration analysis on the soil minerals is given in Figure 2. It shows
(Cuthbert et al. 2013; Fujita et al. 2010; Li et al. 2013). As that the soil mainly consists of quartz. The particle size dis-
for seepage control in soils, the MICP treatment can simply tribution is shown in Figure 3. It is a typical aeolian soil in
be carried out by applying the bacteria and treatment mate-
Northwestern China. In many arid and desertified regions
rials onto soil surfaces (Al Qabany et al. 2012; Chu et al.
in China, surface soils are composed of almost pure
2012, 2013; Liu et al. 2016; Stabnikov et al. 2011). A low-
sand particles.
permeable crust layer can be formed at the soil surfaces and
The test set-up is presented in Figure 4. Soil was
impede the water infiltration from soil surfaces. The
placed in plastic buckets for the microbial treatment and
strength of soil surfaces can also be improved to resist
testing. The diameter of the buckets was 18.5 cm. A 2
mechanical loads and other environmental impacts. The
cm-thick gravel layer was placed on the bottom of the
MICP method is ideal to control water leakage and enhance
the efficient utilization of water resources in arid regions buckets. Dry sandy soil was placed into the buckets and
(Chu et al. 2012, 2013; Gollapudi et al. 1995). As compared compacted to achieve a dry density of 1.46 g/cm3. There
with other engineering methods for seepage control, the was a metal filter between gravel and soil. Two holes
MICP method can be more cost-effective and environmen- were drilled on the bottom of the bucket for the connec-
tally-friendly. The bacterial species used for the MICP treat- tion of tubes for the microbial treatments and the seepage
ment such as Sporosarcina pasteurii are usually isolated rate tests.
from natural soil environments. Recycled materials from
agricultural and domestic wastes can be utilized for the bac-
terial cultivation and the MICP treatment (Cheng and Cord- Microbial culture
Ruwisch 2013; Choi et al. 2016). Sporosarcina pasteurii (CGMCC1.3687) from China General
In this paper, an experimental study was carried out to Microbiological Culture Collection Center was used in this
investigate the performance and mechanism of the MICP study. According to the specification, this species is the
for the control of water leakage in sandy soil. Four different same one as ATCC 11859. The bacteria were cultivated in
treatment schemes, namely, surface spray, surface spray with the liquid medium consisting of: yeast extract 20 g/L, NH4Cl
fibers, surface spray and bulk stabilization, and immersion 10 g/L, NiCl26H20 2.4g/L, MnSO4H2O 1g/L, and NaOH
stabilization, were tested. Permeability tests were conducted solution for the adjustment of pH to 8.5. The liquid medium
to evaluate the effect of seepage control. Penetration tests
was autoclaved before inoculation. The bacteria were culti-
were conducted to measure the surface strength after the
vated aerobically at 30  C and at 100 rpm shaking in an
treatment. The micro-scale pore size characteristics of the
incubator for 24 h before harvest. Harvested cells were cen-
bio-treated soil were studied using a mercury intrusion
trifuged and dispersed in 9 g/L NaCl solution for storage
at 4 C.
The activity of bacteria was determined by an electrical
Materials and methods conductivity method. The ureolysis reaction involves the
hydrolysis of non-ionic substrate urea to ionic products,
Soil and experimental set-up
leading to the proportional increase in the electrical con-
Soil used in this study was obtained from Wuwei, Gansu ductivity. The bacteria used in this study had activities from
Province, located in Northwest China. A photograph of the 0.3 to 0.5 mS/cm/min, or 2.65–4.42 mM/min.

Figure 2. Result of XRD analysis of soil minerals.

Water/Treatment liquid
The hard crust

Metal filter

Figure 3. Particle size distribution of soil.
Figure 4. Schematic diagram of soil treatment and the seepage rate
test apparatus.
Microbial treatment
The treatment liquid was obtained by mixing bacterial liquid time interval between two consecutive treatments was
and urea-calcium chloride solutions together at 1:1 volume 2 d.
ratio. The treatment liquid contained 0.5 mol/L equimolar
(2) Surface spray with the addition of fibers
urea and calcium chloride. The treatment liquid was applied
Before the application of treatment liquids, polypropylene
to soil samples by four different schemes as
fibers were evenly placed on the surface of soil samples at
explained below.
37.3 g/m2. The size of the fibers was around 10 mm in
(1) Surface spray length and 0.1 mm in diameter. The amount of treatment
Treatment liquids were applied onto the surface of soil liquid applied to soil and the application method were
samples by spraying using a spray pot. The volume of the same as those in scheme (1).
treatment liquids applied each time was 134 mL (5 L/
(3) Surface spray and bulk stabilization
m2). Total 19 times spray treatments were applied. The

Table 1. Treatment methods and brief results.

Volume of
treatment liquid
No of bulk No of immersion applied to 2cm Conversion of Times of seepage
Treatment schemes stabilization stabilization No of surface spray depth (L) calcium source (%) rate reduction Surface strength (N)
I 0 0 19 2.55 34.3 8 45.13
II 0 0 19 2.55 49.8 8 34.69
III 3 0 12 2.59 89.7 379 52.29
IV 0 5 0 2.97 58.0 70 54.24

Prior to the spray treatments, soil samples were immersed Pore size distribution
in the treatment liquid for the bulk stabilization of soil
The pore size distributions of the samples were detected
for three times. The treatment liquid retained at the soil
using Quantachrome Poremaster GT-60 mercury porosime-
surface for 48 h. After the bulk stabilizations, the soil
ter. The results were presented in the form of incremental
sample received spray treatments for 12 times using the
intrusion of mercury (pore volume) against pore size.
same method as that in schemes (1) and (2).
(4) Immersion stabilization
The soil sample was immersed in treatment liquid with
the water level 1 cm higher than soil surface. Such a Seepage rate
treatment was carried out for five times with 2-d time
Figure 5 shows the seepage rates of soil samples subject to
interval between two consecutive treatments.
different levels of treatments in different treatment schemes.
Some treatment parameters are given in Table 1. It
In the untreated soil, the seepage rate was 0.237 L m2 s1.
should be explained here that, although treatment methods
After the treatments, the seepage rates were reduced by
differed, the amounts of treatment liquid applied to the sur-
8–379 times depending on the different treatment schemes.
face of the soil samples were similar in different schemes.
In the schemes of surface spray and surface spray with
fibers, the seepage rate reductions were eight times. The
Seepage rate addition of fibers onto the soil surface did not have an evi-
The seepage rate was measured by allowing water to flow dent effect on the seepage rate. In the methods of surface
through the sample at a constant water head and taking spray and bulk stabilization, and immersion stabilization,
readings of the amount of water flowing out of the sample, the seepage rate reductions were 379 and 70 times,
as shown in Figure 4. The water head during the test was respectively.
maintained at 60 cm. The seepage rate was calculated as The seepage rates against the calcium source additions in
the surface soil (2-cm range depth from the surface) are pre-
Q sented in Figure 6. Below 2-cm depth of the samples, cal-
v¼ [3]
At cium content was relatively low and the effect of seepage
control was weak. It can be clearly seen that the treatment
in which Q is the amount of water flowing through the soil
scheme (3), surface spray and bulk stabilization, was the
sample, A is the cross-section area of the sample, and t is
most effective method to reduce the seepage rate. After
time duration of the test.
three-time bulk stabilizations and one-time spray treatment,
the seepage rate was reduced to a level 25 times lower than
Strength of the surface layer its original state. At this time, the amount of calcium source
used was only 0.96 mol. Further treatments also led to a sig-
The strength of the bio-treated soil sample was measured nificant reduction in the seepage rate. As for the scheme of
using a flat-bottom cylindrical penetrometer. The diameter immersion stabilization, a considerable decrease in the seep-
of the penetrometer head was 6 mm. During the measure- age rate started from the fourth treatment when the applica-
ment, the penetrometer head was pushed into the sample at tion of the calcium source was 1.19 mol. In comparison, the
a rate of 3 mm/min. At the same time, the forces and dis- methods of surface spray and surface spray with fibers were
placements of the penetrometer head were recorded. relatively less effective.
To explain such results, the amount and distribution of
calcite in soil and the characteristics of soil pores were
Calcite content
studied. The results are presented in the following
The calcite content of the soil sample was measured using two sections.
the EDTA titrimetric method (ISO 1984). Small pieces of
soil taken from the samples were placed in a certain volume
Calcite content and distribution
of hydrochloric acid. After the calcite was dissolved, the
concentration of calcium in the hydrochloric acid was meas- The amount of calcite produced and its distribution in the
ured. The amount of calcite in the small piece of soil can soil are the major reasons that account for the level of
then be calculated. the seepage rate reduction. After the bio-treatments and the

(a) 1 Surface spray

0.3 Surface spray with fibers
Surface spray
Surface spray and bulk stabilization
Surface spray with fibers
Immersion stabilization

Seepage rate,v(L·m -2·s -1)

Seepage rate,v(L·m -2·s -1)




0 4 9 14 19 0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0
Number of treatments,n(times) Calcium molar quantity n(M)
Figure 6. Relationship between calcium addition in surface soil and seepage
(b) 0.3 rate for four different treatment schemes.
Surface spray and
bulk stabilization
Seepage rate,v(L·m -2·s -1)



0 1 4 7 12
Number of treatments,n(times)

(c) 0.3
Immersion stabilization
Figure 7. The formed hard crust of soil treated by surface spray and bulk stabil-
ization: (a) the calcite layer above the original surface; (b) the cemented soil
layer below the original surface.
Seepage rate,v(L·m -2·s -1)


The distributions of calcite contents along depth in the

samples are given in Figure 8. In the calcite layer above the
0.1 original soil surface, calcite contents were 55–91% by weight
for different samples. In the cemented soil layer, the calcite
contents were 5–15% and decreased from the top down.
Below the hard crusts, the calcite contents were lower than
0.0 around 5%. It is also clearly seen that, the calcite content of
0 3 4 5
the sample treated by scheme (3) was greatly higher than
Number of treatments,n(times) the other three samples. This could explain why the sample
Figure 5. Variations of seepages rates of soils (a) surface spray and surface treated by scheme (3) has the best performance in seep-
spray with the addition of fibers; (b) combined surface spray and bulk stabiliza-
tion; and (c) immersion stabilization. age control.
By comparing the amount of calcite to the total
amount of calcium source introduced to the soil, it can
be found that 34.3–89.7% of calcium was converted to
seepage tests, calcite contents along the depth of the samples calcite during the treatment, as can be seen in Table 1.
were measured. Figure 7 shows that, the low-permeable For the samples treated by test schemes (1), (2), (3) and
hard crust at the soil surface consisted of two layers: a cal- (4), the conversion rates were 34.3%, 49.8%, 89.7% and
cite layer above the original soil surface and a cemented soil 58.0%, respectively. Such results agreed with the observa-
layer below the original soil surface. The thicknesses of the tion that, obvious leakage was witnessed during the spray
hard crusts were 10–20 mm. Below the hard crusts, soil was treatment in schemes (1) and (2), but not in schemes (3)
not properly cemented together. and (4). This implied that the bulk or immersion

Figure 8. Calcite content along depth in all samples.

Table 2. Results of mercury intrusion tests.

Sample No./treatment Specific surface area Most frequent pore Pore size at 50% mercury
scheme Location Porosity (m2/g) size (lm) intrusion volume (lm)
Original sand 0.428 0.920 28.59 29.01
1 Calcite layer above sand surface 0.484 1.945 21.09 18.95
Surface soil in the hard crust 0.336 1.345 17.12 16.90
Soil below the hard crust 0.394 1.497 24.58 21.06
2 Calcite layer above sand surface 0.560 4.007 115.1 39.15
Surface soil in the hard crust 0.279 0.565 17.44 15.41
Soil below the hard crust 0.376 1.261 24.87 19.81
3 Calcite layer above sand surface 0.577 2.082 35.58 24.58
Surface soil in the hard crust 0.329 1.604 16.42 15.74
Soil below the hard crust 0.395 1.368 25.49 24.40
4 Calcite layer above sand surface 0.535 3.342 18.07 17.46
Surface soil in the hard crust 0.321 0.525 19.29 20.31
Soil below the hard crust 0.399 0.830 22.81 23.11

treatment before the application of spray treatments could The results of the porosimetry tests are briefly presented
reduce the loss of the treatment liquid and increase the in Table 2. It can be seen that, both the porosities and the
treatment efficiency. pore sizes of treated samples were greatly reduced as com-
pared to the original soil. The porosity of original soil was
0.428. After the treatment, the porosities reduced to a level
Pore size distribution
0.28–0.33 in the surface soil where hard crusts were formed
The pore size distributions of the soils were investigated and 0.37–0.39 below the hard crusts. The porosities of the
using mercury intrusion porosimetry. In the test, mercury calcite layer above the soil surface were around 0.48–0.58.
was pushed into a small piece of dry sample subject to step- Data of most frequent pore size and pore size at 50% mer-
wise increased pressures. Under a given pressure, whether cury intrusion volume are also given in Table 2. For all the
mercury could enter a pore space was related to the size of test samples at different locations, the pore sizes were
the pore, owing to the capillary effect. The relationship reduced to a level lower than original soils, except the calcite
between the pressure and the minimum size of the pores layer in the sample with fiber addition on the soil surface.
that mercury could enter was calculated as, This could be because of the interference of the fibers.
4r Pore size distributions obtained from the mercury intru-
d¼ cos h [4] sion tests are often presented in the form of incremental
intrusion curves as shown in Figure 9. The vertical axis is
in which, d is pore diameter, r is the surface tension of the volume of mercury intrusion at the specific pressure
mercury, p is the pressure applied to the mercury, and h is increment, as,
the contact angle of mercury on the sample. During the test,
Vn  Vn1
the volume of mercury entering the sample subject to a Incremental intrusion ¼  [5]
log dn  log dn1
given pressure was recorded. In this way, the pore volume
of a specific size was obtained. in which, Vn and dn are the volume intrusion and the pore

(a) (b)

Incremental intrusion,-dv/dlogd(mL·g -1)

Incremental intrusion,-dv/dlogd(mL·g -1)
1.2 Untreated sand
Untreated sand Calcite layer
Calcite layer 1.0 Cemented sand layer
Cemented sand layer Sand below the crust
Sand below the crust 0.8


0.4 0.4

0.2 0.2

0.0 0.0
1000 100 10 1 0.1 0.01 1000 100 10 1 0.1 0.01
Pore size diameter,d(µm) Pore size diameter,d(µm)
(c) (d)
1.2 1.2
Incremental intrusion,-dv/dlogd(mL·g -1)

Untreated sand

Incremental intrusion,-dv/dlogd(mL·g -1)

Untreated sand
Calcite layer
1.0 1.0 Calcite layer
Cemented sand layer
Cemented sand layer
Sand below the crust
Sand below the crust
0.8 0.8

0.6 0.6

0.4 0.4

0.2 0.2

0.0 0.0
1000 100 10 1 0.1 0.01 1000 100 10 1 0.1 0.01
Pore size diameter,d(µm) Pore size diameter,d(µm)
Figure 9. Pore size distributions curves (a) surface spray; (b) surface spray with fibers; (c) surface spray and bulk stabilization, and (d) immersion stabilization.

diameter at the applied pressure of Step n, respectively. The Penetration resistance

horizontal axis is the pore diameter in the logarithmic scale.
Penetration or bending tests were adopted to measure the
As can be seen from Figure 9, for the different samples
surface strengths of soils in previous studies (Chen et al.
and locations, the bio-treatment of soils were effective in
2015; Chu et al. 2013). In this study, a flat-end penetrometer
reducing the volume and size of pores, which was beneficial
was used to evaluate the surface strengths of the low-perme-
for the seepage control. However, at different locations of a
able hard crusts at the soil surface.
sample, the characteristics of the pore distributions were dif-
The plot of penetration force against the displacement of
ferent. In the cemented soil layer where the hard crusts were
the penetrometer is presented in Figure 10. For the original
formed, the pore size distribution curves took on a similar
soil, the penetration force was relatively small and the pene-
shape compared to the original soil. But the height of the
tration force increased to the peak value of around 6 N. For
curve became shorter and the location of the curve moved
the bio-treated samples, the forces required to penetrate the
rightwards. These results imply that the bio-treatment is
surface were much larger. The peak values were 35–55 N for
effective for different pore sizes. The soil below the hard
samples treated by different schemes. The curves show a
crust also showed the similar shape of pore distribution
drastic increase to the peak points at around 2–3 mm
curves although the level of pore size reduction was less sig-
depths, followed by a gradual decrease. However, even at a
nificant. As for the calcite layer above the soil surface, there
depth of 20 mm, the penetration forces in the treated sam-
were more narrow pores and wide pores as compared with
ples were still much larger than the original soil. It can also
the original soil. In the original soil, most of the pore sizes
be seen that the peak penetration forces treated by schemes
were in the range of 10–100 lm. In the calcite layer, the
(3) and (4) are larger than those treated by schemes (1) and
range of pore size distribution was wider.
(2). This result is consistent with the data presented in
Figures 6 and 8, which show that the samples treated by
schemes (3) and (4) have lower permeabilities and higher
calcite contents.

70 1.20E-04
Untreated sand
Surface spray Li, 2015
60 Surface spray with fibers 1.00E-04
Al Qabany & Soga, 2013
Surface spray and bulky stabilization

Permeability, k (m/s)
50 8.00E-05
Penetration force,F(N)

Immersion stabilization Chu et al, 2013

40 6.00E-05 Whiffin et al, 2007

30 4.00E-05 Fitting curve

y = 3 × 10 −5 x −0.743
20 2.00E-05

10 0.00E+00
0 5 10 15 20 25
0 Calcite content, w/w (%)
0 5 10 15 20
Figure 11. Relationship between the permeability and the calcite content of
Penetration depth,S(mm) uniform MICP-treated soil in previous studies (The urea concentrations in the
treatment solutions range from 0.5 to 1.5 mol/L; The mean sizes, D50, of the soil
Figure 10. Penetration force versus penetration depth curves for untreated soil
range from 0.165 to 0.420 mm).
and samples treated by four different treatment schemes.

In the preliminary experiments (the data not shown in 10
the paper), we found that cracks could be easily developed
in the soil treated by the surface spray method. The cracks Calculated permeability, k (m/s)
led to the ineffectiveness of seepage control. Therefore, we
added a small amount of fibers to the soil surface before the -5
spray treatment as the so-called Treatment scheme (2) to 10
investigate whether cracks could be prevented or whether
the penetration resistance could be improved with the add-
ition of fibers. It is shown in Figure 5(a) that the samples
treated by schemes (1) (without fiber) and (2) (with fiber) 10
had no significant differences in terms of the permeability
variations. Small cracks can be seen in around first 10
treatments and the cracks gradually disappear thereafter in
both samples, which is also consistent with the permeabil- -7
ity reducing trends shown in Figure 5(a). However, it 10 -7 -6 -5 -4
10 10 10 10
seems that the addition of fibers may increase the ductil-
Measured permeability, k (m/s)
ity of the soil sample. As can be seen in Figure 10, the
Figure 12. Comparison of measured and calculated permeability.
sample treated by scheme (2) (with fibers) has higher
post-peak penetration resistance that treated by scheme
(1) (without fibers). was two order-of-magnitude reduction as compared with
untreated soil. For the treated soil with non-uniform cal-
cite distribution, the permeability was calculated using the
Discussions following equation:

Permeability and calcite content H

k¼P   [6]
n Hi
For the MICP-treated soils, the permeability is closely i¼1 ki
related to the amount of calcite in the soils. The relation-
ship between permeability and calcite content of uniform
MICP-treated soils was investigated in previous studies where k and H are the overall permeability coefficient and
(Al Qabany and Soga 2013; Chu et al. 2013; Li 2014; the depth of soil, respectively; Hi and ki are the permeability
Stabnikov et al. 2013; Whiffin et al. 2007). The results are and the soil depth of Layer i, respectively.
summarized in Figure 11. The concentrations of treatment By using the fitting curve in Figure 11 and the equation
solution (urea) used in these studies were in a range of above, the permeability of the MICP-treated soil with the
0.5–1.5 mol/L. The mean sizes, D50, of the soil were in a calcite distribution shown in Figure 8 can be calculated. The
range of 0.165–0.420 mm. It can be seen that the perme- calculated and measured data are comparatively presented in
ability shows a sharp decrease when the calcite content Figure 12. The calculated and measured values of permeabil-
decreased from 0 to around 2%. Beyond this range, the ity are roughly consistent. The treatment effect is the best in
variation of permeability in relation to calcite content was the treatment scheme (3), surface spray and bulk stabiliza-
moderate. The permeability could be reduced to a value tion. Such results also indicate that a calcite content larger
of around 1  106 m/s at 15% calcite content, which than 2% is favorable in terms of seepage control.

Step3: spray or immersion treatment

Original sand surface

Hard crust Step2: excavation Sand

Injection well Extracting well

Step1: bulk treatment

Figure 13. Schematic diagram of irrigation channels and water reservoirs construction in sandy soil ground by MICP methods.

Recommendation for future applications for the samples treated by the four treatment schemes,
respectively. The conversion percentages of calcium of the
For the construction of irrigation channels, a method is pro-
samples treated by the four different schemes were 34.3,
posed here as can be seen in Figure 13. The first step is to
49.8, 89.7 and 58.0%, respectively.
apply the treatment liquid in the deep soil. The cross-well
(b) After the bio-treatment, the formed low-permeable
injection method has been proved to be a feasible way for
hard crusts layers were 10–20 mm in thickness and the cal-
the stabilization of deep soil (DeJong et al. 2013). This
cite content reduced from the top down. The sample treated
method can also be used here. The microbial stabilization of
by scheme (3) had the thickest hard crust and highest calcite
the soil can enhance the stability and durability of the chan- content, which agreed with its best performance in seep-
nel during construction and services. The second step is to age control.
excavate soil to form the designed shape of the channel. The (c) The results from the mercury intrusion tests revealed
induced cementation effect in the first step can facilitate the that, in the MICP-treated soil, both pore volumes and pore
excavation because sandy soil is stabilized. The third step is sizes decreased as compared with the original soil.
to apply treatment liquid onto the surface soil by spraying (d) In the bio-treated soil, the penetration strength and
or immersion. the stiffness were much higher than those in the original
It can be seen in the experimental results that the MICP soil. The relationships between penetration forces and
treatment of soil can effectively reduce the permeability for depths show peak values at around 2–3 mm depths followed
the seepage control. At the same time, the penetration resist- by a gradual decrease in the penetration forces, which is
ance or the surface strength of soil can be improved, which consistent with the calcite distributions in soils.
enhances the durability of the treatment effects. However,
the limitations of the method should also be addressed. The
MICP treatment usually requires at least several rounds of Disclosure statement
treatments in order to obtain favorable permeabilities and No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
strengths, as can be seen in Figures 5 and 10. Currently, the
cost of materials, bacterial cultivation, as well as field appli-
cation methods are relatively high. In the MICP treatment, Funding
ammonia is produced through the ureolytic process, which This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science
is hazardous to the environment (DeJong et al. 2013). Foundation of China (No. 51608169, No. 41630638, No. 51609093, No.
51578214), the National Key Research and Development Program of
China (No. 2016YFC0800205), the Jiangsu Provincial Natural Science
Conclusions Foundation of China (No. BK20150814), the 111 Project (Ministry of
Education of China, No. B13024), the Error! Hyperlink reference not
In this study, we investigated the performance and mecha- valid. (No. MOE2015-T2-2-142), and Centre for Usable Space,
nisms of the MICP method for the control of water seepage Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
in sandy soil. The treatment was carried out by four differ-
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spray with the addition of fibers, (3) surface spray and bulk
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