Effect of Soft Viscoelastic Biopolymer on the Undrained Shear Behavior of Loose Sands

by Noh, D.H, Cha, W, Santamarina, J.C, & Cho, GC
Article Year: 2021 DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)GT.1943-5606.0002582.


Noh, D.H., Cha, W., Santamarina, J. C.., & Cho, G.C. Effect of Soft Viscoelastic Biopolymer on the Undrained Shear Behavior of Loose Sands. J. Geotech. Geoenviron. Eng., 2021, 147(8): 04021072



Soft viscoelastic biological products such as biopolymers and biofilms have recently garnered significant interest as alternative biogrout materials for ground improvement because of their nontoxic and biodegradable characteristics. However, the impact of soft gel-like viscoelastic pore fillers on the undrained response of treated soils remains poorly understood. This study involves undrained triaxial compression tests with concurrent shear wave velocity measurements of loose contractive sands treated with soft gelatin. The specimens experience two distinct loading-gelation sequences, either consolidation before gelation (CbG) or confinement after gelation (CaG). Results reveal that the shear wave velocity can be used as an indicator of the effective stress carried by the granular skeleton. The inclusion of the viscoelastic biopolymer hinders the contractive tendency, diminishes postpeak softening, and increases the undrained shear strength of loose contractive sands. These effects become more pronounced for stiffer biopolymers because they provide an enhanced skeletal support against chain buckling and contraction. The presence of biopolymers increases the normalized undrained shear strength from  to , particularly at low effective confining stress. The biopolymers alter the terminal state in the  space. Therefore, critical states should be reconsidered for biopolymer-treated sands. The confinement-gelation sequence affects the effective stress supported by the granular frame and thus has pronounced effects on the undrained shear strength. This suggests the potential use of viscoelastic pore fillers as an effective treatment of loose sands prone to liquefaction.



Biopolymer Gelatin Viscoelastic inclusion Undrained load-deformation behavior Undrained shear strength Contractive failure Loose sand loading history critical state