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Stabilization of Soft Soils with Deep

Mixed Soil Columns General

Ali Dehghanbanadaki
Department of Civil Engineering, University Technology Malaysia; 81310 Johor; Malaysia; e

Kamarudin Ahmad
Associate professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University Technology Malaysia;
81310 Johor; Malaysia; e-mail:

Nazri Ali
Senior lecturer, Department of Civil Engineering, University Technology Malaysia; 81310
Johor; Malaysia; e-mail:

Mahdy Khari
Department of Civil Engineering, University Technology Malaysia; 81310 Johor; Malaysia;

Payman Alimohammadi
Department of Civil Engineering, University Technology Malaysia; 81310 Johor; Malaysia;

Nima Latifi
Department of Civil Engineering, University Technology Malaysia; 81310 Johor; Malaysia;

Conventional deep soil mixing techniques are often used to improve soft soil properties in
terms of their settlement, bearing capacity and shear strength characteristics. This technique
has a wide range of applications such as improvement of embankment stability, slope
stability, braced excavation and sea walls which can be performed in
different soils like
clays and peats. This paper gives the concept and theory of this method and describes
different Geotechnical properties contains installation, binder type, settlement and bearing
capacity of composite ground.


Cement columns, stabilization, binder type, composite ground

Deep mixing (DM) method, forming soil-cement columns is a popular method to increase
bearing capacity of soft soils and decrease the total settlement of soft ground (Broms and Boman,
1979; Bergado et al. 1994). In this method different binders like cement or lime is injected and
- 295 -

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d into soil using special machines.
After mixing, biinders hydratte and react w
with the soil tto
form hard soil colu
umns which are
a stiffer and
d stronger thann ambient sofft soil. The diiameter, lengtth
and arrangement
of the colum
mns depend on project specificationss. In field cconditions, thhe
diameeter of singlee soilcementt columns ty
ypically rangees from 0.5 to 2.1m andd the length is
betweeen 10 and 30m (Coastal Developmen
nt Institute off Technologyy, 2002). Thee properties oof
these columns dep
pend on many
y factors such
h binder quanttity, curing tiime, loading conditions annd
constrruction proceess. Generally
y the main pu
urposes of thhe DM methood are to conntrol settlemennt
and in
ncrease stren
ngth (Porbahaa, 1998). These columns have also bbeen used to reduce trafffic
vibrattions, to imprrove the stabiility of slopess and deep exxcavations. G
Gypsum, fly aash, granulateed
blast furnace slag and other waste productss can be addeed to increase the shear sstrength and tto
reduce the costs (Broms,
1). The desig
gn philosophyy for deep sttabilization iss to produce a
stabiliized soil that mechanically
y interacts with the surrounnding unstabiilised soil. Thhe applied loaad
is parrtly carried by
b the colum
mns and parrtly by the uunstabilised ssoil between the columnns.
Thereefore, a too stiiffly stabilized material is not necessariily the best soolution since ssuch a material
will behave
like a pile (EuroSo
oilStab, 2002)) Terashi, 20005 summarizzed different aapplications oof
DM methods
in soft soils which
h is shown in Figure 1.

Figurre 1: Applications of thee deep mixinng method (T

Terashi, 20055)

deeep soil mixin
ng method can
c be perfoormed in twoo techniques.. Wet or dryy,
nding on soil and
a project sp

Wet mixing method

T advantagees of this metthod are, it caan be done too depths up tto 30m and can be used foor
most subsurface conditions,
from soft, plasstic clays to medium dennse sands andd gravels witth
cobbles. However,, this method
d is primarily used to imprrove soft cohhesive and looose to medium
densee cohesionlesss soils. Whilee the high cosst of mobilizaation of mixinng equipmentt plus batchinng
plantss is most serious disadvan
ntages of this method. Fuurthermore bench scale teesting must bbe

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done which needs several months to be completed. Finally there is a lack of well-developed
design and analysis model available (SCDOT, 2010).

Dry mixing method

One advantage of this method in soft clay is that it often provides an economic benefit when
compared to other conventional foundation methods. This advantage is based on several project
factors including size, weight, and flexibility of the structure, depth, and shear strength of the
compressible layer, the risks, and consequences of failure and the effects of lowering the
groundwater table. On the other hand the most important disadvantage of this method is the full
strength of the columns may not be mobilized when the pH of the groundwater is acidic or the
content of carbon dioxide (CO2) is high. Low strength development should also be anticipated
when mixing non-reactive cohesive soils (clays lacking pozzolans). The air-driven injection
process may accumulate large quantities of air in the ground potentially causing heave of the
adjacent ground surface. This problem can be eliminated by adding mixing paddles to the mixing
tool and/or substantially increasing the mixing time. (SCDOT, 2010).

In installation process of the soilcement columns either binder slurry (wet mixing) or binder
powder (dry mixing) the binder is injected into the soft ground with high pressure and mixing
with soil using rotary equipment with high torque capacity (Larsson, 2003; Porbaha, 1998). The
needed amount of binder is directly dependent on site properties. According to Kempfert, 2003
the minimum water content of the field for dry mixing method is 20%. In comparison, the dry
mixing method showed more strength of the wet method using similar binder amount (Holm,
2001). Generally this method has some features in common with stone column technique. Both
methods are employed to decrease total settlement and increase stability of structures. However
important differences are the material and installation technique (Safuan, 2011). Figure 2 depicts
the installation process (Hayward Baker, 2004). Typically different arrangements of the column
can be installed to improve soft soils depending on needed specifications which is illustrated in
figure 2(c). Quality control during execution in dry and mixing method is vital to make uniform
improvement of the soil and to ascertain the needed amount of binder mixed uniformly over the
entire depth of improvement. To obtain this purpose, the mixing units are equipped with
automated computerized recording devices to monitor the real-time operating parameters such as
depth of mixing tool, volume or weight of binder used, flow rate of grout, rotation speed and rate
of penetration and withdrawal. After passing curing period the deep mixed columns can also be
tested using single/group column plate load tests, unconfined compressive strength tests on cored
samples (Raju, 2008).

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Figure 2: (aa) Deep mix

xed column installation
pprocess (Hayyward Bakerr, 2004),
ns (Topolniccki, 2004) (cc) Column arrrangementss (SCDOT,
(b) Wet soil mixed

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Type of binder
Generally the type of binder, the amount of binder added and curing time can directly affect
the degree of improvement and are dependent to site specification (Kitazumi, 2005 and Chew et
al., 2004). Even rather similar soil properties, slight variation in properties may cause great
differences in stabilized soil properties. According to Ahnburg et al. (2002) originally lime was
the only binder to stabilize soft soil but the cement was replaced due to higher strength since mid1980s. Different laboratory tests are needed to select appropriate binder type. The laboratory tests
should evaluate the compressibility, permeability and shear strength of stabilized soil specimens.
One of the most important factors for choosing binder type is organic content. In the highly
organic soils like peat, the amount binder is different to inorganic soils. So in these cases a
quantity of binder needs to exceed a threshold as shown in Figure 3. The principal of chemical
reactions is almost similar for different binders in soil stabilization. The main procedure is
depicted in Figure 4 (Ahnberg and Johansson, 2005). Based on different laboratory tests on
various stabilized specimens, EuroSoilStab, 2002 summarized application of different binder type
in table1.
Curing time, temperature and environmental changes, can affect the improvement of treated
soil. Temperature can change the soil binder reactions. According to Axelsson et al., 2002
different binder types have variation in heat evolution. It is clearly depicted that cement and lime
are less dependent on soft soil temperature since the needed reaction temperature is prepared by
the binder. Therefore in soft soil stabilization with deep mixed method, with low exothermic
agents, low strength gains when the temperature of ambient soil is low. In the case of curing time,
it is clear that the strength achieved in cement stabilization is during the first month. Whereas, for
lime stabilization the strength gain continues for several months depending on the rate of
pozzolanic reactions between soil and lime (EuroSoilStab, 2002).

Figure 3: General Relationship between binder dosage and shear strength in peat soils,
(EuroSoilStab, 2002)

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Tablle 1: Relativee strength in

ncrease based
d on laboratoory tests on N
Nordic soilss with variouus
binders (un
nconfined compressive sttrength afterr 28 days) (E
EuroSoilStabb, 2002)

4: Priincipal chem
mical reaction
ns and subseequent produucts formed in soil by
different biinder types (Ahnberg
annd Johanssonn, 2005)

ment off compo
osite gro
O of the most
nt application
ns of these ddeep mixed ccolumns is too control tottal
ment of strucctures like em
mbankments, railways andd foundationss. Load distrribution withiin
soft soil
and cem
ment columns has an imp
portant impacct on settlem
ment analysis.. In a methood
osed by Brom
ms and Boman
n (1979), two theories weree considered. Based on first theory wheen
the lo
oad carried by
y column excceeds its yield
d strength, thhe stress in thhe column is equal to yielld
strain and the restt of applied load
will be transferred too unimprovedd soft soil, w
while a seconnd

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theory implies that applied load will be shared into the soft soil and column in proportion to the
stiffness of materials. The maximum settlement of group columns is usually calculated based on
two assumptions:
1. The axial deformations of columns are the same as deformations of surrounding
unstabilized soil.
2. Reinforced soil acts like composite materials, similar to over consolidated clay.





Figure 5: Load distributions between columns and soil (EuroSoilStab, 2002)

Stress in column


Creep load

Figure 6: Assumed load-deformation curve in columns (EuroSoilStab, 2002)

According to figure 5, the load deformation curve is assumed to be linear up to long term
strength of columns. The slope of the curve shows Young moduli of columns. During the loading
stages on soft soil and columns, two settlements are compared. Settlement of the column ( ) and
soft soil (S ). Equations 1 to 3 depict the calculation of settlements:

S =

S : Settlement of column, m
h: Thickness of layer, m
A : Total area of columns

h q
a E


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A : Total area of improved soil

q Load on columns, kPa
E : Young's modulus of column, kPa
1a M

S :


S : Settlement of soft soil, m
q : Load on soft soil, kPa
M or E : Compression modulus of unimproved soil, kPa
Comparison between the deformation of columns and soil depends on properties of them,
totally two different conditions occur as below:
, settlement of column ( S ) Is compared to settlement in
1. By assuming that q = q
soil ( S ) as following:
If S > S , simultaneously the load on columns ( q ) reduces gradually while the load on
soft soil (q ) increases, so that finally S =S . The calculated S is then equal to S and S .
(Equation 3)
h. q
= =
a. E + (1 a)M
: Settlement at improved mass is equal to
2. If S < S then column can't stand any more load and then the settlement S
occurs is equal to the calculated settlement S in unstabilised soil.


Bearing capacity of composite ground

Beside the compressibility, the improvement of bearing capacity of soft soils is the most
important application of deep mixed columns. The ultimate bearing capacity of composite ground
depends directly on improvement ratio and undrained shear strength of soft soil and column.
Different methods have calculated the bearing capacity of composite ground from where the deep
soil mixed columns are penetrated in hard ground (End-bearing columns) which are expressed
(a) Weighted method:

where c

and c

+ (1 ).

are the undrained shear strength of column and soft soil and

is replacement

(b) Brom (2000); Bouassida and Porbaha (2004) method:

= .7
where q and c
strength soft soil.

+ (1 ).


Are the unconfined compression strength of the column and undrained shear
is taken 5.5, as proposed by Bergado et al. (1996).

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n composite ground
stabiliizing with flo
oating deep sooil mixed collumns, the ulltimate bearinng
capaccity is depend
dent to type of
o failure. Wh
hen failure iss attributed too block failurre, the bearinng
capaccity expressed
d as:

= 2 . ( + ) + (6 9)


wheree B, L and H are the width

h, length and height
of the column grouup respectivelyy. The factor 6
corressponds with a rectangular footing whilee the factor 9 correspondss with a squarre footing. It is
suggeested that end
d bearing resisstance should
d be ignored iin the calculaation since a rrelatively largge
mation of abo
out 5 10% of
o the width of
o the loaded aarea is needed to mobilizee the maximum
ng resistance (Bergado et al.,
a 1996).

Figure 7: Shear failu

ure of the collumn group aas a block (T
Topolnicki, 22003)
T ultimate bearing
capacity with resspect to a loccal failure allong the edgge of the thesse
mns depends on
o the averag
ge shear stren
ngth of the so il along the bblock failure surface, whicch
can be
b calculated in the same way as the slope stabiliity. The ultim
mate bearing capacity witth
respecct to local faillure can be esstimated with

= 5.5

. (1 + 0.2 )


a length off the locally loaded area respectively, and cav is thhe
wheree B and L are the width and
ge shear stren
ngth along thee assumed faiilure surface ((Brom, 1991)).
the meentioned meth
hods, the ultim
mate bearing capacity of iimproved soill with columnns
like element can be obtained from the load - deformationn graph such as a single taangent methodd,
classical double taangent metho
od and log-log method. Butler and H
Hoys Methood (1977) is a
od based on the load deeformation grraph. In this method the ultimate failuure load at thhe
point of intersectio
on of tangent sloping at 1 Ton/
1.27 mm
m (1 Ton/ 0.055) and tangent to the initial
straight portion of the curve is defined
as thee ultimate beaaring capacityy.

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Figurre 8: Butler and

a Hoys M
Method (1977)

ure of co
ompositte groun
Failure pattern
ns of improveed ground aree influenced bby loading coonditions suchh as vertical oor
ned loading. In
I the verticaal loading con
nditions, Brooms (2001) cclassified failuure patterns iin
three groups depen
nding on colu
umn propertiees using highh, intermediatte and low sttrength colum
materrials which are illustrated in
i Figure 9. Further physiccal modelling tests in the ccase of inclineed
ng conditionss were comp
pleted by Kittazume et all. (1996, 19997 and 20000). The resullts
indicaated that failu
ure patterns depending nott only to exterrnal loading cconditions, buut also colum
gements can
n affect the failure patttern. Furtherrmore, all th
the columns did not faail
simultaneously; they failed onee by one with an incremennt of loading. In these expeeriments in thhe
ned loading co
ondition, It was
w revealed that
when a loow strength ccolumns mateerial was madde
to stab
bilized soft so
oil, failure paattern initiatess by rupturingg of columns and the failedd segments arre
tend to
t be in a strraight line. In
n the case wh
hen high streength columnn was used, ccollapse failurre
happeened in which
h the all colu
umns inclined
d towards thee loading dirrection without any rupturre




Figure 9: Failure
modes of DM witth different ccolumn strenngths (Brom
ms, 2001)
(a) High strrength colum
mn (b) Interrmediate streength colum
mn (c) Low
ngth columnn

Vol. 18 [2013], Bund. A


Deep soil mixing technique forms technically sound and cost effective solution where the
subsoils are soft and weak and needs to be improved to enable the intended construction which its
applicability has been proven in the recent years for a wide range of structures. The theories and
concepts for calculating Geotechnical properties of composite ground improved by this technique
have been described. Based on soft ground conditions and project specification, an appropriate
installation method and binder type can be designed to attain the desired performance.

The author would like to acknowledge the financial support given by the School of Graduate
Studies (SPS) - Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. This support is gratefully appreciated.

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