Effects of lime treatment on the hydraulic conductivity and microstructure of loess

Abstract

Lime treatment of loess in foundation engineering modifies the soil structure, leading to changes in mechanical and hydraulic properties of soil, which in turn will affect the flow of water and transport of contaminants in the loess. In light of this, it is essential to identify the dominant effects of different lime treatments on hydraulic conductivity, and to ascertain the optimum lime treatment. For this purpose, we investigated the effects of dry density and lime content on changes in hydraulic conductivity and microstructure of loess in Yan’an City, China. The results indicate that hydraulic conductivity has a log negative correlation with dry density, and lime addition can result in a decrease of hydraulic conductivity of loess at the same dry density. Under a given degree of compaction, however, lime addition can lead to a decrease in dry density due to an increase in flocculation and aggregations. The significant decrease of dry density leads to an increase in hydraulic conductivity when lime content (in mass percentage) is lower than 3%. Nevertheless, when lime content is higher than 3%, the reactions between loess particles and lime will be intensified with an increase in lime content, and become the primary factors affecting pore characteristics. These reactions can further decrease the hydraulic conductivity of lime-treated loess, and the lowest hydraulic conductivity was obtained for lime-treated loess with 9% lime content. The excess lime (above 9% lime content) dramatically increased pore size, leading to a significant increase in hydraulic conductivity. Therefore, 9% is the optimum lime content for loess treatment, and the degree of compaction in engineering should be higher than 95%. In addition, statistical analysis of microstructure of lime-treated loess shows that the distribution trends of macro- and meso-pores coincided with that of saturated hydraulic conductivity, which indicates that lime content affects saturated hydraulic conductivity of lime-treated loess by changing the soil structure, especially the properties of pores larger than 8 µm.

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Acknowledgements

This work was financially supported by Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41572236, 41790441, 41502234, 41761144059 and 41602238); and Fundamental Research Foundation of the Central Universities (300102298712). Their support is gratefully acknowledged. The anonymous reviewers and editor are gratefully acknowledged for their useful comments regarding the original version of this paper.

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Correspondence to Hui Qian.

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This article is a part of a Topical Collection in Environmental Earth Sciences on Water resources development and protection in loess areas of the world, edited by Drs. Peiyue Li and Hui Qian.

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Gao, Y., Qian, H., Li, X. et al. Effects of lime treatment on the hydraulic conductivity and microstructure of loess. Environ Earth Sci 77, 529 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-018-7715-9

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Keywords

  • Hydraulic conductivity
  • Dry density
  • Lime content
  • Microstructure
  • Lime-treated loess