Specimens of silica sand treated via enzyme induced carbonate precipitation (EICP) showed surprisingly high strength at a relatively low carbonate content when non-fat powdered milk was included in the treatment solution. EICP is a biologically-based soil improvement technique that uses free urease enzyme to catalyze the hydrolysis of urea in an aqueous solution, producing carbonate ions and alkalinity that in the presence of calcium cations leads to precipitation of calcium carbonate. The strength achieved at less than 1.4% carbonate content via a single cycle of treatment was unprecedented compared to results reported in the literature from both EICP and microbially induced carbonate precipitation (MICP). Scanning electron microscope images show that in the specimens treated with the solution containing powdered milk the carbonate precipitate was concentrated at interparticle contacts. The impact of these results include reductions in the concentration of substrate and enzyme required to achieve a target compressive strength, reduction in the undesirable ammonium chloride by-product, and, depending on the desired strength, reduction in the number of cycles of EICP treatment. These advantages enhance the potential for development of a sustainable method of soil improvement via hydrolysis of urea.
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