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Geomechanics and Engineering
  Volume 17, Number 5, April10 2019, pages 485-496
DOI: https://doi.org/10.12989/gae.2019.17.5.485
 


Engineered bioclogging in coarse sands by using fermentation-based bacterial biopolymer formation
Yong-Min Kim, Taehyung Park and Tae-Hyuk Kwon

 
Abstract
    Sealing of leakage in waterfront or water-retaining structures is one of the major issues in geotechnical engineering practices. With demands for biological methods as sustainable ground improvement techniques, bioclogging, defined as the reduction in hydraulic conductivity of soils caused by microbial activities, has been considered as an alternative to the chemical grout techniques for its economic advantages and eco-friendliness of microbial by-products. This study investigated the feasibility of bioaugmentation and biostimulation methods to induce fermentation-based bioclogging effect in coarse sands. In the bioaugmentation experiments, effects of various parameters and conditions, including grain size, pH, and biogenic gas generation, on hydraulic conductivity reduction were examined through a series of column experiments while Leuconostoc mesenteroides, which produce an insoluble biopolymer called dextran, was used as the model bacteria. The column test results demonstrate that the accumulation of bacterial biopolymer can readily reduce the hydraulic conductivity by three-to-four orders of magnitudes or by 99.9-99.99% in well-controlled environments. In the biostimulation experiments, two inoculums of indigenous soil bacteria sampled from waterfront embankments were prepared and their bioclogging efficiency was examined. With one inoculum containing species capable of fermentation and biopolymer production, the hydraulic conductivity reduction by two orders of magnitude was achieved, however, no clogging was found with the other inoculum. This implies that presence of indigenous species capable of biopolymer production and their population, if any, play a key role in causing bioclogging, because of competition with other indigenous bacteria. The presented results provide fundamental insights into the bacterial biopolymer formation mechanism, its effect on soil permeability, and potential of engineering bacterial clogging in subsurface.
 
Key Words
    bioclogging; insoluble biopolymer; bacteria; fermentation; biosealing
 
Address
Yong-Min Kim, Taehyung Park and Tae-Hyuk Kwon: Department of Civil and environmental engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology,
291 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 34141, Republic of Korea
 

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