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Arab J Sci Eng (2014) 39:6949–6958

DOI 10.1007/s13369-014-1286-1


Effect of Non-Traditional Additives on Engineering

and Microstructural Characteristics of Laterite Soil
Aminaton Marto · Nima Latifi · Amin Eisazadeh

Received: 25 June 2013 / Accepted: 30 September 2013 / Published online: 14 July 2014
© King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals 2014

Abstract The stabilization of soils with additives is a chem-

ical method that can be used to improve soils with low-
engineering properties. The stabilizing mechanisms of TX-
85 and SH-85 additives are not fully understood, and their
proprietary chemical composition makes it very difficult to
evaluate the stabilizing mechanisms and predict their per-
formance. The objective of this study was to investigate the
macro- and microstructural properties related to tropical lat-
erite soil mixed with the specified non-traditional soil addi-
tives. The tests carried out, i.e., compaction and unconfined
compression strength, were used to assess the engineering
and shear properties of the stabilized laterite soil, and the
physicochemical changes were monitored via field-emission
scanning electron microscopy (FESEM) and thermal grav-
ity analysis. Based on the results, it was found that both
additives can decrease the dry density and increase the lat-
erite soil strength approximately fourfold in comparison with
the natural soil. FESEM results showed that the porosity of
untreated soil was filled by the new cementitious products. 1 Introduction
Also, it was found that the treatment of laterite had a marginal
impact on the thermal characteristics of the soil. Traditional pavement design and construction practices
require high-quality materials to fulfill minimum construc-
Keywords Laterite soil · Non-traditional additive · tion standards. In many areas of the world, quality soil mate-
Compaction · TGA · UCS · FESEM rials are scarce, forcing engineers to seek alternative tech-
niques such as soil stabilization. Soil stabilization is the
process of improving the physical and engineering properties
of a soil to obtain some predetermined targets. It operates in
various ways such as mechanical, biological, physical, chem-
ical, and electrical. Nowadays, among the different methods
of soil improvement, using chemical additives for soil stabi-
lization in order to increase soil strength parameters and load-
A. Marto · N. Latifi (B) · A. Eisazadeh ing capacity is catching more attention. The stabilization of
Geotechnic & Transportation Department,
soils with additives is a chemical method that can be used to
Faculty of Civil Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia,
81310 UTM Skudai, Johor, Malaysia improve soils with low-engineering properties. The soil stabi-
e-mail: En_Latifi@yahoo.com lizers are categorized as traditional and non-traditional. Tra-

6950 Arab J Sci Eng (2014) 39:6949–6958

ditional additives include cement, lime, fly ash, and bitumi- The objective of the present study was to qualitatively
nous materials, while non-traditional additives consist of var- evaluate and compare the influence of these stabilizers on
ious combinations such as enzymes, liquid polymers, resins, the physicochemical behavior of the soil. This paper inves-
acids, silicates, ions, and lignin derivatives [1–5]. On the tigates the changes in the macro- and microcharacterization
other hand, the result of previous studies indicated that the of SH-85 (powder form)- and TX-85 (liquid-form)-treated
non-traditional additives can help to increase soil strength laterite soil with curing time. The “macrocharacterization”
with curing time [6–10]. Most laboratory and field exper- study included standard geotechnical laboratory test, i.e.,
imentation with non-traditional additives have focused on compaction and unconfined compressive strength (UCS).
performance evaluation instead of mechanism identification. A paired “microcharacterization” was also used to study
Thus, there is relatively little literature available concerning the structure of soil-stabilizer matrix using field-emission
stabilization mechanisms of non-traditional additives. For scanning electron microscopy (FESEM) and thermal gravity
instance, a study of the physicochemical interaction of a high analysis (TGA).
free lime (CaO) content cement kiln dust (CKD) with expan-
sive Na-montmorillonite clay was performed [11]. Based
on the results, the CKD-treated clay indicated that calcium 2 Materials
hydroxide, derived from the CaO present in the CKD, was
extensively adsorbed on the surfaces of the clay flakes, but This study was conducted on the residual laterite soil that
apparently only limited pozzolanic reaction occurred. C–S– is usually found in tropical areas. The required soil sam-
H reaction products presumably were formed by reaction of ples were extracted from a hillside (Balai Cerap) located in
adsorbed calcium hydroxide with silica from the clay. the Skudai campus of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)
In recent years, many studies have been done on laterite from depth of 2 to 3 m below the ground surface. The soil
soils, which are the most common type of soils in hot and was air-dried under laboratory conditions, after which peb-
tropical regions [1]. Buchanan was the first person that used bles and plant roots were removed. Soil’s passing the 2 mm
the “lateritic” word to describe a ferruginous, vesicular, and sieve was only used in the experiments. The particle size dis-
porous material with yellow ochers color, because of its high tribution and the physicochemical properties of the natural
iron percentage [12]. Rock weathering in tropical areas is soil are illustrated in Fig. 1, Tables 1, and 2, respectively.
rigorous. It usually causes fast disintegration of feldspars In Fig. 2, the X-ray diffraction (XRD) result indicated that
and ferromagnesian raw materials, displacement of silica the main minerals present in the laterite soil were kaolin-
and bases (Na2 O, K2 O, MgO), and absorption of iron and ite (2θ = 12.5◦ , 20◦ , 35◦ , 38◦ , 46◦ , 55◦ ), quartz (2θ = 26◦ ,
aluminum oxides. This procedure which is called lateriza- 36.5◦ , 42.5◦ , 50◦ , 62◦ ), geothite (2θ = 21.5◦ , 37◦ , 41◦ , 53◦ ),
tion includes leakage of SiO2 and deposition of Fe2 O3 and and gibbsite (2θ = 18◦ , 19◦ , 27◦ , 39◦ ) [1,3].
Al2 O3 [13]. The liquid (TX-85) and powder type (SH-85) of chemi-
Studies show that lateritic clay forms a large part of cal additives used in this study were prepared from Probase
Malaysia’s soil, and it can be used indifferent areas and soil Stabilizer Company, a local company in Johor state of
projects as natural soil. However, until today, there is no spe- Malaysia. The exact chemical composition of these stabiliz-
cific research on the microstructure and efficiency of these ers has not been released, since it is a commercially registered
soils mixed with domestically produced chemical additives brand. Table 3 shows the general chemical properties of SH-
SH-85 and TX-85 which are rapid enhancing soil stabilizers 85 based on energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDAX)
in comparison with traditional stabilizers such as lime. which indicates that it is a calcium-based stabilizer. The result

Fig. 1 Particle size distribution

of laterite soil
Percentage Finer (%)

Particle Size (mm)

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Table 1 Characteristics of the natural laterite soil Table 3 Oxides and chemical composition of SH-85
Engineering and physical properties Values Chemical composition (oxides) Values (%)

pH (L/S = 2.5) 5.35 Cao 68.20

Specific gravity 2.69 SiO2 9.25
External surface area (m2 g−1 ) 41.96 Al2 O3 12.30
Liquid limit, LL (%) 75 CO2 10.24
Plastic limit, PL (%) 41 pH (L/S = 2.5) 12.65
Plasticity index, PI (%) 34
BS classification MHa
Maximum dry density (mg m−3 ) 1.31
during the study [9]. Deionized water was used in all fea-
tures of sample preparation, as it is generally recommended
Optimum moisture content (%) 34
for chemical testing practices [1]. The optimum moisture
Unconfined compressive strength (kPa) 270
content (OMC), as the required amount of water, was deter-
a BS 1377–1990, part 2
mined for the natural soil, and soil mixed with 3, 6, 9, 12,
and 15 % SH-85 and TX-85. For this means, a series of stan-
Table 2 Oxides and chemical composition of laterite soil dard proctor compaction tests according to British Standard
Chemical composition (oxides) Values (%) were performed to determine the optimum moisture contents
for laterite soil and different mixed designs [14,15]. In order
SiO2 25.46
to prepare a homogeneous mixture for unconfined compres-
Al2 O3 31.10
sive strength (UCS) tests, irregular hand mixing with palette
Fe2 O3 35.53 knives was done. Then, the target dry density and mois-
CO2 7.91 ture content were reached by compressing the samples in
a steel cylindrical mold fitted with a collar that accommo-
dated all the mixtures. The required compaction was done
of inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS)
by a hydraulic jack. Finally, the cylindrical samples were
performed on the TX-85 also indicated that Na, Al, Si, and
extruded using a steel plunger, trimmed, and wrapped in sev-
Fe were the major elements present.
eral runs of cling film [10]. These samples were cured for
3, 7, 14, 28, and 90 days in a temperature controlled room
3 Sample Preparation and Testing Program (27 ± 2 ◦ C) before they were used for unconfined compres-
sive strength test. A minimum number of three specimens
The results of previous study on the laterite soils revealed were tested for each specific mixture by the UCS test to pro-
that the plasticity and compaction properties of this soil were vide an index of soil improvement. It should be noted that all
changed significantly during oven-drying [3]. Consequently, samples were made by optimum moisture content and 90 %
the present study has used air-drying method to prepare all of maximum dry density [16].
mix designs of laterite soil. The air-dried soil was broken into A JSM-6701F JEOL field-emission scanning electron
smaller particles and sieved through a 2 mm sieve. This step microscope (FESEM) was employed to study the morpho-
was performed to confirm the uniformity of the soil grade logical changes and the topographic features associated with

Fig. 2 XRD patterns for the

laterite soil

6952 Arab J Sci Eng (2014) 39:6949–6958

Fig. 3 Scanning electron


Fig. 4 Thermal gravimetric


clay particles before and after treatment. It incorporates a cold Hence, small amounts of the sample were placed in an alu-
cathode field-emission gun, ultra high vacuum, and sophis- minum crucible under N2 gas atmosphere with a flow rate of
ticated digital technologies for high-resolution high-quality 10 mL/min and analyzed up to 850 ◦ C at a rate of 10 ◦ C/min
imaging of microstructures (Fig. 3). It should be noted that (Fig. 4). A specimen designation scheme was used in the
the sample preparation for FESEM analysis involved drying present study to ease the presentation of the results. The
the samples and placing them onto an aluminum stub covered mentioned scheme used letters to indicate, respectively, the
with double-sided carbon tape, and coating the specimen with soil name and type of treatment (i.e., LC: laterite clay, UNT:
platinum using a vacuum sputter coater in order to prevent untreated, LST: liquid stabilizer treated, PST: powder stabi-
surface charging and loss of resolution. lizer treated, and D: days).
Thermal analysis techniques have long been used in the
study of soils, particularly in clay mineralogy. Thermal analy-
sis involves a dynamic phenomenological approach to the 4 Result and Discussion
study of soils by observing its response to a change in tem-
perature. A TGA/SDTA851 instrument which is a modern The main aim of compaction is to maximize soil’s density,
device for TGA and simultaneous difference thermal analy- also the addition of a single anion or cation introduced by the
sis (SDTA) of materials was used in this study. This technique stabilizers can pose a significant impact on the compaction
is based on monitoring the weight loss of the material dur- characteristics of the soil. Therefore, it is rational to suggest
ing a controlled heating process in a defined gas atmosphere. that soil-stabilizer reactions are affected by the initial com-

Arab J Sci Eng (2014) 39:6949–6958 6953

Fig. 5 Result of the

compaction test on laterite soil
and mixed with different
percentage of SH-85

Fig. 6 Result of the

compaction test on laterite soil
and mixed with different
percentage of TX-85

Fig. 7 Strength gained for

SH-85-treated laterite soil with
different stabilizer content and
curing time

Fig. 8 Strength gained for

TX-85-treated laterite soil with
different stabilizer content and
curing time

6954 Arab J Sci Eng (2014) 39:6949–6958

pactive effort, since this has direct influence on the parti- be due to the flocculation and agglomeration effect of soil
cle spacing and the subsequent crystallization process. Com- particles which reduces compactibility and hence the den-
paction tests were performed on pure laterite soil and the soil sity of the treated soil. However, the gain in strength of the
mixed with 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15 % SH-85 and TX-85. Figures 5 soil will normally compensate for the change in compaction
and 6 show the results of compaction. As can be seen, the behavior, and it should not be regarded as disadvantageous. In
addition of SH-85 and TX-85 to the laterite soil increased the addition, the optimum moisture content tends to move toward
optimum moisture content and reduced the dry density for the higher values, enabling soils in wetter original condition to
same compactive effort. Reduction in the dry density could be compacted more satisfactorily [17]. Also, the increase of

Fig. 9 FESEM of a SH-85, b

untreated soil, c 9 %
SH-85-treated laterite soil after
7 days, and d 9 % SH-85-treated
laterite soil after 90 days

Arab J Sci Eng (2014) 39:6949–6958 6955

Fig. 9 continued

the moisture content was probably because of the rapid and strength characteristics of the natural soil. It can be seen that
exothermic nature of the reaction between soil and additive the 9 % TX-85-treated samples after 7 days curing gained a
which led to loss of water [18,19]. compressive strength of 984 kPa, which was approximately
Figures 7 and 8 show the unconfined compressive strength four times greater than the strength of untreated soil. Also,
of laterite clay soil mixed with SH-85 and TX-85 at different the 9 % SH-85-treated samples after 7 days curing achieved a
amount of stabilizers and different time intervals. Clearly, compressive strength of 1,087 kPa, which was approximately
the TX-85 and SH-85 treatments effectively improved the five times greater than the strength of natural soil. The men-

Fig. 10 FESEM of a 9 %
TX-85-treated laterite soil after
7 days, and b 9 % TX-85-treated
laterite soil after 90 days

6956 Arab J Sci Eng (2014) 39:6949–6958

Fig. 11 TGA spectrums of a

untreated soil, b 9 %
SH-85-treated laterite soil after
7 days, c 9 % SH-85-treated
laterite soil after 90 days, d 9 %
TX-85-treated laterite soil after
7 days, and e 9 % TX-85-treated
laterite soil after 90 days

Arab J Sci Eng (2014) 39:6949–6958 6957

tioned strength values were higher, and they were achieved ite mineral [24]. Furthermore, in chemically treated samples,
faster than the compressive strength values gained by phos- a slight shift to the right in thermal characteristics of sam-
phoric acid and lime treated of same soil type [3]. However, ples was evident. This was probably due to the stabilization
the compressive strength for the mix design of more than 9 % process and decomposition of new cementitious products in
TX-85 reduced with time. The latter was probably due to the treated soil [1,25].
increase in the positive surcharge and the subsequent repul-
sion of soil particles inside the mixture [1,8,18,20,21]. On 5 Conclusion
the other hand, for more than 9 % of SH-85 mix designs, the
compressive strength was almost constant after 7 days cur- In this study, several analytical methods were applied on
ing. It meant that the large part of reactions happened within treated laterite soil with powder and liquid non-traditional
the first 7 days. It can be concluded that the 9 % of TX-85 stabilizers to investigate its macro- and microstructural char-
and SH-85 were the optimum amount of these additives for acteristics. The mentioned techniques were performed to
laterite soil. identify the engineering properties and the stabilization
In the present study, field-emission scanning electron process mechanisms.
microscope (FESEM) equipment at a high magnification The compaction tests result showed that the addition of
(10,000× times) was used to investigate the morphology of SH-85 and TX-85 to the soil can change the optimum mois-
stabilized soil. Figure 9a–d indicates the FESEM results for ture content and dry density, but in the case of liquid-form
SH-85, untreated soil, and treated soil mixed with 9 % of stabilizer, the changes were rather small. Also, the reduction
SH-85 after 7 and 90 days curing time. Figures showed that in dry density could be due to the flocculation and agglomer-
the structure of the SH-85 was continuous, flaky, and cluster- ation effect of soil particles which reduce compactibility and
like. The micrograph of natural laterite shows that the soil hence the density of the treated soil. The results of uncon-
has a discontinuous structure, where the voids and porosity fined compressive strength test showed that 9 % of TX-85
are more visible because of the absence of hydration prod- and SH-85 was the optimum amount of these additives for
ucts. In general, from the images of SH-85-treated samples, laterite soil.
new cementitious products in the form of white lumps were In this research, an analytical technique that was linked to
found to be made with curing time. It should be noted that the thermal characteristics of soil was conducted at different
by means of energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDAX) time intervals. It was found that the application of the selected
technique, these compounds were roughly identified as cal- additives as a soil stabilizer had a marginal impact on the ther-
cium aluminate hydrate (CAH) [3]. In addition, the filling of mal properties of lateritic soil since no new peaks and major
voids in the stabilized soil leads to an increase in bonding and thermal shifts were observed. FESEM results also indicated
interlocking forces between soil particles which was mainly that the powder and liquid additive filled the porous areas
responsible for the strength gained. inside the soil by the formed cementation gel. This phenom-
The results of FESEM for TX-85-treated samples are enon led to a better and stronger aggregate of soil particles
shown in Fig. 10a, b. Images of the treated mix designs with and finally formed denser soil. Based on the EDAX results,
the TX-85 stabilizer showed the formation of white gel form the new formed gel-like cementitious compounds of sodium
product in the soil fabric with the cementitious gel filling the aluminosilicate hydrate (N-A-S-H) and calcium aluminate
pores in the soil structure. This also resulted in less porous hydrate (CAH) were believed to be the main cause of this
and denser soil fabric. By means of an energy dispersive behavior. From engineering standpoint, the outcome of this
X-ray spectrometer (EDAX) technique, this compound was research reveals that treating the natural soil with TX-85 and
roughly identified as sodium aluminosilicate hydrate (N-A- SH-85 stabilizers could significantly improve the strength
S-H) [22,23]. of the laterite soil. These improvements were much faster
Figure 11a–e shows the thermal gravimetric curves of nat- and higher (time and cost efficient) in comparison with the
ural soil, 7, and 90 days cured treated lateritic soil with SH- traditional stabilizers such as lime and cement.
85 and TX-85, respectively. As can be seen, soil dehydration
covered the lower temperature regions. In addition, evap- Acknowledgments Financial support for this research was provided
oration of adsorbed surface water on the surface and inter- by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) under Grants Nos. 05J77 and
05J79. This support is gratefully acknowledged.
layer of clay particles was the main reason responsible for the
weight losses observed in the lower temperature regions (50–
104 ◦ C). In natural laterite clay samples, noticeable amount
of organics were also present. The weight loss at temperatures References
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