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TROPICAL SOILS

AND ROCKS
HIGHWAY ENGINEERING

GEOLOGICAL DEFINITIONS
ROCKS
covers units of the earths crust

formed by certain geological


processes
SOILS
used to describe materials
produced by disintegration of rocks

ROAD CONSTRUCTION
Most roads are constructed on soils or soft rocks.
In mountainous regions, hard rock may occur in

cuttings and rock fragments may be used as


embankment fill.
Hard rocks are usually quarried, crushed and graded
to make aggregate for construction of heavy-duty
road pavements.
The stability of cuts and fills is dependent on the
properties of the soils and rocks concerned.
The structural design of the pavement is dependent
on the bearing capacity of the subgrade and the
strength of the paving materials.

ROCKS

ROCKS
Can be classified into:
Igneous

Sedimentary
Metamorphic

This classification indicates

the mechanism through which


the rocks were formed.

IGNEOUS ROCKS
Igneous rocks were formed by cooling and solidification

of hot molten rock material (magma). It can be


classified into either
EXTRUSIVE (formed by rapid cooling of magma pouring

out on the surface of the earth), or


INTRUSIVE (formed when magma solidifies within the
earths crust)
In general, igneous rocks make good road aggregates.
Fine-grained types (extrusive) have better abrasion and

impact values but poorer polished stone values than


coarse grained types (intrusive) of the same composition.
Dolerite, basalt and granite are the most common source
of road aggregate among igneous rocks.

SEDIMENTARY ROCKS
Sedimentary rocks were formed by consolidation

and cementation of sediments that have been


accumulated in water or deposited by wind.
A characteristic feature of many sedimentary
rocks, particularly sandstone and shale, is a
layered structure (stratification) which is a result
of variation in the depositional process. Hard
sandstone and hard limestone are frequently used
as aggregate in road pavements, but most
sedimentary rocks are soft and only suitable for
embankment construction. Hard limestone is an
excellent aggregate for use in cement concrete
because of its low thermal expansion.

METAMORPHIC ROCKS
Metamorphic rocks were formed by the modification of

igneous or sedimentary rocks as a result of pressure,


heat and also, occasionally, as a result of chemical
action.
Quartzite usually produces road aggregate with good
abrasion and impact values. The polished stone value
may be high, but the affinity for bitumen varies.
Marble has properties similar to those of hard
limestone; gneiss has properties similar to those of
granite. The foliated (have a pronounced laminar
structure) metamorphic rocks have very poor crushing
strengths parallel to the banding and can only be used
as a fill material.

SOILS

SOILS
There are three different soil

forming processes
Residual soils are formed in place
by weathering of bedrock.
Sediments are formed from parent
materials that have been
transported to their location by
wind, water or glacial ice.
Organic soils are formed from
decomposed plant and animal

SOILS
The variation of tropical soils is

extreme. The most widespread groups


of tropical soils are the following:
Laterite
Desert soils
Expansive clays
Volcanic ash soils
Tropical alluvial soils

LATERITES
a group of highly weathered soils formed by the

concentration of hydrated oxides of iron and


aluminum
occur in all wet tropical regions, including East,
West and Central Africa, Brazil, Indonesia,
Thailand and various islands, such as Hawaii and
Cuba.
mainly occurs as:
surface deposits of unhardened, clayey soils
massive rock-like hardpans
gravel consisting of concretionary nodules in a soil

matrix

LATERITES
In the tropics, where weathering is often

intense and the availability of suitable rock as


a source of crushed aggregate is often limited,
lateritic gravel is a traditional source of road
aggregate. When the grading of lateritic
gravel is close to a mechanically stable
particle size distribution, the material
performs satisfactorily on lightly trafficked
roads, both as sub-base and base under thin
asphalt surfacings, and as natural gravel
surfacings. But, the significant silt and clay
content often renders the material moisturesensitive.

DESERT SOILS
are normally called arid and semi-arid soils by

geologists
occur mainly in the subtropics, although there is also
some occurrence in dry regions of tropical countries
usually occur at low field densities
when constructing roads on loose sand, it is necessary
to compact the sand thoroughly to avoid uneven
settlement of the road; however, it may be difficult to
obtain satisfactory compaction, because water is
scarce and dry compaction is not very effective with
the often single-sized soil material
vibratory compaction can be helpful in obtaining indepth compaction, and this can be followed by static
compaction to settle the top layer

EXPANSIVE CLAYS
most well-known example of expansive clay is

black cotton soil


swell when moistened and shrink when dried and
the swelling properties are due to a high content of
the clay mineral montmorillonite
the colour is black, dark grey or dark grey-brown
which is a result of a small amount of organic
matter being mixed with the clay
clays with a high swelling potential are a persistent
problem in road construction in tropical regions
with pronounced dry and wet seasons

EXPANSIVE CLAYS
surface evaporation is reduced by the road

pavement and, after the road has been completed,


the moisture content of the subgrade normally rises
and causes swelling of the subgrade and heaving of
the pavement which reduces the bearing capacity
of the soil
during the following wet and dry seasons, the
surface of the road will move up and down
depending on the moisture changes
in highly expansive clays, the yearly vertical
movements of the pavement edges may be as high
as 50100mm, causing severe edge failures

VOLCANIC ASH SOILS


residual soils formed in tropical regions with

current or recent volcanic activity


highly sensitive to disturbance, so road
engineers should avoid working in their
vicinity
roads can be constructed over them, but
heavy compaction of the soil should be
avoided since it can break down the soil
structure and render the soil weaker and more
susceptible to the effect of water

TROPICAL ALLUVIAL SOILS


mineral soils that have been transported and

deposited by flowing water


mainly occur in
river plains and deltas
alluvial fans
former lake bottoms
old irrigated areas
coastal plains

good quality road construction materials and

aggregates can usually be extracted from point


bar deposits in flood plains and from alluvial fans