Geo-Alchemy (Turning Sand into Sandstone) and Other Biotechnologies

Challenges and Innovation in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences SPRING 2021 Seminar Series


Geo-Alchemy (Turning Sand into Sandstone) and Other Biotechnologies

Edward Kavazanjian, Jr., PhD., P.E., D.GE, NAE, Arizona State University

3:55 p.m.–4:55 p.m., April 8, 2021   |   Zoom

Contact Diane Westerink for Zoom link

Biogeotechnical engineering is based upon the premise that through 3.8 billion years of trial and error (i.e., evolution) nature has developed efficient and sustainable solutions to many of the problems that vex geotechnical engineers.

The biogeotechnologies that have gained the most attention employ bio-mediated calcium carbonate precipitation, wherein microbes or enzymes are used to induce precipitation of calcium carbonate (calcite) in granular soils, turning cohesionless sand into a sandstone-like material (“geo-alchemy.”)

Laboratory testing and field trials show that these technologies can non-disruptively enhance foundation bearing capacity and mitigate the potential for earthquake-induced liquefaction. Other applications associated with carbonate precipitation technology include desaturation of cohesionless soils, fugitive dust control, and tunneling in running and flowing sands. Other biogeotechnologies currently being explored by geotechnical engineers include the development of root-inspired earth reinforcement and foundation systems, in-situ creation of barriers to contaminant transport, enhanced soil penetration systems, and motile (self-burrowing) subsurface investigation probes and excavation systems.

Edward Kavazanjian, Jr., Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, NAE, is a Regents Professor and the Ira A. Fulton Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at Arizona State University. Prof. Kavazanjian returned to academia at ASU in August 2004 after 20 years in engineering practice. In February 2013 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. In August 2015, he became director of the Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics (CBBG), a Gen-3 Engineering Research Center funded by the National Science Foundation.

Prof. Kavazanjian has received several awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), including the 2011 Karl Terzaghi Award for his contributions to soil mechanics and earthworks engineering through his publications on landfill engineering and waste containment systems. He also won the 2010 Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award for his paper on “Shear Strength of Municipal Solid Waste,” and the 2009 Ralph B. Peck Award for contributions to landfill engineering through published case histories. He is also a former President of the ASCE Geo-Institute.

Contact Diane Westerink for Zoom link.