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Application of Geosynthetics for Ground Improvement: An Overview

IGC 2009, Guntur, INDIA


Gohil D.P.
Research Scholar, Department of Applied Mechanics, S.V. National Institute of Technology, Surat395007, India.
E-mail : dpgohilcapri_2005@yahoo.com
C.H. Solanki
Assistant Professor, Department of Applied Mechanics, S.V. National Institute of Technology, Surat395007, India.
E-mail : chs@amd.svnit.ac.in
A.K. Desai
Assistant Professor, Department of Applied Mechanics, S.V. National Institute of Technology, Surat395007, India.
E-mail: akd@amd.svnit.ac.in
ABSTRACT: Geosynthetics is manmade material used for soil reinforcement. Soil transfers the built up forces in earth to
reinforcement by friction which develops tension in reinforcement. Geosynthetics is used in locations where shear stresses are
generated because shearing stress between soil and reinforcement restrains the lateral deformation of the soil. Geosynthetics
used for increasing bearing capacity and permeability of soil, reducing settlement of soil. Under dynamic shear excitations,
slip deformations occur along smooth geosynthetic interfaces. Thus, in a landfill application seismically induced slip
deformations along a bottom geosynthetic liner can result in reduced accelerations transmitted to landfill waste. Preliminary
shaking table test on smooth high density polyethylene and geotextile showed that this concept of using geosynthetics to
isolate a structure from incoming seismic waves had great promise. Shaking table tests of a building model placed on a
selected geosynthetic liner results the benefits of utilizing a special geosynthetics liner as an energy absorbing system that can
reduce building response during an earthquake. Displacement transducers are use to measure the slip along the geotextile
interface and to measure the distortion of the columns of the building model. This paper presents a review of the existing
experimental and analytical work done in this field and identifies different areas needing further attention.
Key Words: Geosynthetics, High Density Polyethylene, Seismic Waves, Displacement Transducers.
Geotextiles are the largest and most diverse group of
geosynthetic materials and include all fabrics produced from
polymer fibers. There are five main functions of geosynthetic
materials: to separate dissimilar geomaterials; to reinforce
soil masses; to act as a filter in controlling the transport of
solid particles within the soil; to provide drainage pathways
within the soil mass; or to impede fluid flow by acting as a
containment/flow barrier. Geosynthetic functions of
separation, filtration, and reinforcement involve interactions
with the surrounding soil.
Geotextiles and geogrids are widely used to reinforce soil
masses in the design of retaining walls and slopes. In these
Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) applications, horizontal
layers of the geosynthetics are sandwiched between
compacted layers of fill during construction. Lateral
spreading of the soil mass is resisted by shearing along the

soilgeosynthetic interface and the development of tensile

stresses within the reinforcing layers. Internal stability also
requires that the geosynthetic layers provide tensile
anchorage against potential slope failures by extending into
the stable soil mass.
The principal parameters in design are the tensile strength
and stiffness of the geosynthetic, and the soilgeosynthetic
interface shear and bond resistance. Horizontal layers of
geosynthetics are also used as basal reinforcements for
embankments constructed over soft foundation soils. Basal
reinforcement provides additional short-term stability and
greatly aids constructability in these situations. Tensile
stresses develop due to membrane action in the centre of the
basal reinforcement due to undrained deformations of the
soil. These stresses transfer through interface shear tractions
into both the overlying embankment fill and underlying soft
soil improving coherence in the side slopes and redistributing
the forces transferred to the underlying clay.
The use of geotextiles to separate the soil sub grade from the
overlying aggregate (unpaved) road base or railway ballast


Application of Geosynthetics for Ground Improvement: An Overview

rely on tensile stiffness and strength properties of the

geosynthetics. The geotextile allows drainage but prevents
intrusion of aggregate into a softer underlying material while
preventing the pumping of fine particles from the sub grade
into the ballast. Geotextiles are frequently used as filter
fabrics in subsurface drainage and erosion control
applications. Geosynthetic materials are routinely used for
subsurface drainage; these include edge/fin drains behind
earth retaining walls and prefabricated vertical drains used to
accelerate the consolidation of low permeability clays.

attention. Many experimental, numerical, and analytical

studies have been performed to investigate the behaviour of
Reinforced Soil Foundation (RSF) for different soil types.
The selection or development of a proper geosynthetic
material for use as foundation isolation was the first
important task of the research. Several candidate interface
materials were explored for their suitability as foundation
isolator. Ideally, foundation isolation material should satisfy
requirements including:

The friction coefficient during sliding should be small to

minimize the acceleration transmitted through the
interface. In general, friction coefficients between 0.05
and 0.15 would be desirable for the isolation concept to
be used worldwide not only in regions of high
seismicity, but also where earthquakes pose a moderate
threat, and seismic mitigation measures can be cost

The static friction coefficient should be slightly larger

than the dynamic coefficient to prevent sliding under
non seismic loads including wind.

To simplify introduction of foundation isolation in

engineering design, the friction coefficient should be
insensitive to several factors including sliding velocity,
normal stress, sliding distance, moisture, and

The interface material should be resistant to chemical

and biological attacks, and to long-term creep effects.

The maximum and permanent slip displacements

induced by an earthquake should be small enough to
allow functionality of the structure and its utilities.


Ling & Liu (2001) showed that geosynthetic reinforcement
increased the stiffness and bearing capacity of the asphalt
concrete pavement. Under dynamic loading, the life of the
asphalt concrete layer was prolonged in the presence of
geosynthetic reinforcement.
Sireesh (Article in press) showed that geocell mattress can
substantially increase the bearing capacity and reduce
settlement of the clay sub grade with void. The geocell
mattress must spread beyond the void at least a distance
equal to the diameter of the void. With increase in the height
of the geocell layer, its moment of inertia and hence bending
and shear rigidity of the geocell mattress increases that it
effectively bridges the void and transmits the footing
pressure to the adjacent soil mass. The overall bearing
capacity of the foundation bed increases with increase in
density of the fill soil. It is therefore profitable to have a
dense fill in the geocells.
Ghazavi & Lavasan (2008) did a parametric study that
revealed the role of the distance between reinforcing layers
and footings and the width and depth of reinforcing layers on
the bearing capacity. The results showed that the bearing
capacity of interfering footing increases with the use of
geogrid layers, depending on the distance between two
footings. Reinforcement caused the bearing capacity of
interfering footings to increase by about 1.5 and 2 for one
and two reinforcement layers.
Sharma et. al. (2009) showed that the bearing capacity of soil
improved when reinforced by geosynthetics and that better
improvements were obtained when the reinforcement is
placed within a certain depth (or influence depth) beyond
which no significant improvement will occur.
Hajiani, et al. (2003) proved that the bearing capacity
increase with increasing number of reinforcement layers, if
the reinforcements were placed within a range of effective

4.1 Behaviour of Geosynthetics under Cyclic Loading

Unnikrishnan et. al. (2002) indicate that a thin layer of highstrength sand provided on both sides of the reinforcement is
effective in improving the strength and deformation
behaviour of reinforced clay soils under both static and
cyclic type loadings.
Yegian & Kadakal (2004) explained the use of
geosynthetics liners for dynamic response of landfill. Slip
deformations occurring along geosynthetic interface can
limit the earthquake energy transmitted to overlying waste
or soil. Results from dynamic analysis demonstrated that
smooth HDPE geomembrane/ geotextile liners significantly
reduce the landfill acceleration, beyond an input base
acceleration of 0.2 g. A dynamic analysis assumed the
complete shear transfer through geosynthetic liners can
significantly over estimate landfill acceleration.



4.2. Geosynthetic Liners for Foundation Isolation

During the past 30 years, the use of reinforced soils to

support shallow foundations has received considerable

The suitability of various synthetic materials for the purpose

of foundation isolation. The dynamic interface properties of


Application of Geosynthetics for Ground Improvement: An Overview

these materials are being investigated using a shaking table

to identify the most promising material for this application.
Now-a-days geotechnical engineers have interested in
research program that was focused on exploring the technical
feasibility of using synthetic materials as an alternative lowcost seismic isolation technique. A base isolator provides a
discontinuity between a footing and the overlying column. A
base isolator performs two functions: (1) It shifts the natural
period of the building away from that of the earthquake. (2)
It provides additional damping to absorb the energy.
Hushmand & Martin (1991); Kavazanjian et al. (1991); and
Yegian & Lahlaf (1992) proposed the concept of using a
smooth geosynthetic liner underneath building foundations to
dissipate earthquake energy through sliding along the
accelerations to the overlying structure. The research
program identified a synthetic liner that is well suited for
seismic isolation. Two alternate schemes were explored for
the use of the liner. The first was the placement of the liner
immediately underneath the foundation of a structure. This
approach is foundation isolation and is shown schematically
in Figure 1.

building model. Tests were carried out by varying the normal

contact stress, amplitude of displacement (slip) and the rate
of slip. Under these different test conditions, the friction
coefficients of the interfaces were measured and evaluated.

Fig. 2: Building Model on Shaking Table Experiment

Using UHMWPE/geotextile liner, the column shear force in
the building model placed on the geosynthetic liner to the
column shear force in the model that was fixed to the table
were compared. The horizontal axis defines the peak
accelerations to which the three earthquake records were
scaled. The results show that at a base acceleration greater
than 0.07g the geosynthetic liner absorbs energy, and thus
dramatically reduces the column shear forces in the building
model. For example, at a base acceleration of 0.4g, the
column shear force in the building model on foundation
isolation is only 35% of that corresponding to the fixed case.
This demonstrates the excellent energy absorption capacity
of UHMWPE/geotextile interface.

Fig. 1: Foundation Isolation

In the second approach, the synthetic liner is placed within
the soil profile at some depth below the foundation of a
structure. This approach is referred to as soil isolation.
Yegian & Catan (2004), paper presents typical experimental
test results, which support the selection of a synthetic liner
most suitable for seismic isolation. The details and results of
shaking table experimental tests that were conducted using a
rigid block as well as a model structure to investigate the
performance of a foundation-isolated structure are presented.
Analysis and discussions of the research results are presented
demonstrating the technical feasibility of using a synthetic
liner to dissipate earthquake energy, thus reducing structural
response and minimizing the potential for damage from an
Various tests including cyclic loading and rigid block
shaking table experiments are performed to evaluate the
dynamic response of various interfaces. Displacement
transducers are use to measure the slip along the geotextile
interface and to measure the distortion of the columns of the

Due to various functions and advantages geosynthetics are

best option in geotechnical projects. New immerging field
for geosynthetics as foundation isolator to reduce seismic
energy transmitted to buildings can be a very cost effective.
It is also a simpler alternative to earthquake hazard mitigation
measures conventionally used in current engineering
American Society for Testing and Materials [ASTM] (2000).
Standards on Geosynthetics, 5th edn. ASTM,
Philadelphia, PA Giroud J-P 1993 Geosynthetics
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