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Agarose gel as a soil analogue for the development of advanced bio-mediated soil improvement methods

Lookup NU author(s): Javier Rodriguez Corral, Dr Helen Mitrani, Professor Martyn Dade-Robertson



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Canadian Science Publishing, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Bio-mediated soil improvement methods (those that use biological processes) have potentially low cost and environmental impact but can be difficult to control to ensure effective results, especially if engineered bacteria are used. A novel application of using agarose gel as a soil analogue is proposed, which can enable development of advanced bio-mediated soil improvement methods by reproducing relevant mechanical properties while allowing complex biological processes to be studied in detail, before testing in soils. It is envisaged that agarose gel will be used instead of soil when developing early-stage prototype methods, as it provides an ideal environment to facilitate growth and monitoring of bacteria. A programme of geotechnical tests and Scanning Electron Microscopy on Agarose Low Melt (LM) gel is presented. The results demonstrate comparable pore size, undrained strength and permeability to soft clays and peats but more linear stress-strain behaviour and higher compressibility. This paper offers proof of this novel concept but further investigation is required as only a single type of agarose, at a single concentration is tested. By varying these factors, along with use of different solvents, there is significant potential to tune the behaviour of the analogue to particular soils or construction scenarios.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rodriguez Corral J, Mitrani H, Dade-Robertson M, Zhang M, Maiello P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Canadian Geotechnical Journal

Year: 2020

Volume: 57

Issue: 12

Pages: 2010-2019

Online publication date: 31/03/2020

Acceptance date: 16/03/2020

Date deposited: 18/03/2020

ISSN (print): 0008-3674

ISSN (electronic): 1208-6010

Publisher: Canadian Science Publishing


DOI: 10.1139/cgj-2019-0496


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