Use of microfluidic experiments to optimize MICP treatment protocols for effective strength enhancement of MICP-treated sandy soils
Microbially-Induced Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) Precipitation (MICP) has been extensively studied for soil improvement in geotechnical engineering. The quantity and size of calcium carbonate crystals affect the strength of MICP-treated soil. In this study, microfluidic chip experiments and soil column experiments were conducted to optimize MICP treatment protocols for effective strength enhancement of MICP-treated sandy soils. The microscale experiments reveal that, due to Ostwald ripening, longer injection intervals allow crystals to dissolve and reprecipitate into larger crystals regardless of the concentration of cementation solution. Even though a cementation solution input rate of 0.042 mol/l/h is sufficient to maintain a high chemical transformation efficiency, a further reduction of the input rate by about four times resulted in an increase of the size of crystals produced by the end of treatment from about 40 μm to 60 μm. These findings were applied in soil column experiments. Results showed that significantly larger crystals and higher soil strength were achieved when the normalized rate of cementation solution injection was reduced from 0.042 mol/l/h to 0.021 mol/l/h. Crystal size and soil strength increased slightly more when the normalized input rate was further reduced from 0.021 mol/l/h to 0.010 mol/l/h. This study demonstrates how data from microscale microfluidic experiments that examine the effects of injection intervals and concentration of cementation solution on the properties of calcium carbonate crystals can be used to optimise the MICP treatment in macroscale sand soil column experiments for effective strength enhancement.