Mechanical, Microstructural, and Durability Properties of Soil Stabilized with Alkali-Activated Jarofix for Road Applications

In this study, the authors investigated the feasibility of jarofix [a zinc (Zn) smelter by-product] as a potential geopolymer binder in soil stabilization for road applications. Different combinations of soil–jarofix (SJ) mixtures were prepared using sodium hydroxide (NaOH), sodium silicate (Na₂SiO₃), and a combination of NaOH + Na₂SiO₃ as alkali activators. Unconfined compressive strength (UCS) tests were performed to examine the mechanical performance of SJ mixtures, and the effects of the jarofix content, curing conditions, and curing time were investigated. Changes that occurred during the geopolymerization process were further corroborated using field-emission scanning electron microscope (FESEM) images and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) analysis. Durability tests were also performed to examine the weathering resistance of selected SJ mixtures against 12 cycles of alternating wetting and drying. Based on the experimental results, the compressive strength of bare soil was increased 8.8 times, from 0.31 to 2.75 MPa, under ambient curing (AC, at 27 ± 2°C) conditions and 6 times, from 1.1 to 6.55 MPa, under dry curing (DC, at 60°C) conditions. This increase in compressive strength was attributed to the formation of sodium alumino-silicate hydrate (N–A–S–H) gel structures during the geopolymerization process, which led to a compact soil matrix, as confirmed by the FESEM images. The specimens cured under DC conditions showed greater strength improvement than those cured under AC conditions owing to the faster rate of the geopolymerization reaction at elevated temperatures. In addition, the Na₂SiO₃ and NaOH + Na₂SiO₃ solutions were found to be the most efficient alkali activators for the SJ mixtures cured under AC and DC conditions, respectively. This durability study revealed that the alkali-activated SJ mixtures exhibit a significantly smaller loss in mass than bare soil when exposed to 12 cycles of alternating wetting and drying. Moreover, the specimens cured under DC conditions were found to be more resistant to weathering than those cured under AC conditions. Overall, soil amended with 15% jarofix (through alkali activation) satisfies the minimum strength and durability criteria recommended by Indian standards for its use as a subbase and subgrade material. The current study shows that jarofix has the potential to be used as a geopolymer binder for soil stabilization, which can help the mining sector in minimizing the volume to be stored in tailings storage facilities.


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  • Accession Number: 01890129
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, ASCE
  • Created Date: Aug 15 2023 2:34PM