We have developed a novel method to synthesize a hyper-branched biomimetic hydrogel network across a soil matrix to improve the mechanical strength of the loose soil and simultaneously mitigate potential contamination due to excessive ammonium. This method successfully yielded a hierarchical structure that possesses the water retention, ion absorption, and soil aggregation capabilities of plant root systems in a chemically controllable manner. Inspired by the robust organic-inorganic composites found in many living organisms, we have combined this hydrogel network with a calcite biomineralization process to stabilize soil. Our experiments demonstrate that poly(acrylic acid) (PAA) can work synergistically with enzyme-induced carbonate precipitation (EICP) to render a versatile, high-performance soil stabilization method. PAA-enhanced EICP provides multiple benefits including lengthening of water supply time, localization of cementation reactions, reduction of harmful byproduct ammonium, and achievement of ultrahigh soil strength. Soil crusts we have obtained can sustain up to 4.8 × 103 kPa pressure, a level comparable to cementitious materials. An ammonium removal rate of 96% has also been achieved. These results demonstrate the potential for hydrogel-assisted EICP to provide effective soil improvement and ammonium mitigation for wind erosion control and other applications.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry