Engineering behavior of fine-grained soils modified with a controlled organic phase
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Organic materials are ubiquitous in the geologic environment, and can exert significant influence over the interfacial properties of minerals. However, due to the complexity in their structure and interaction with soil solids, their impact has remained relatively unquantified. This study investigated the engineering behaviors of organoclays, which were synthesized in the laboratory using naturally occurring clay minerals and quaternary ammonium compounds of controlled structure and density of loading. Organic cations were chosen to study the effects of functional group structure and size. The laboratory investigation showed that the presence of the organic cations on the mineral surfaces led to increased hydrophobicity of all clays tested. Conduction studies on the electrical, hydraulic, and thermal properties of the organoclay composites suggested that increasing the total organic carbon content resulted in decreased electrical and thermal conductivity, but increased hydraulic conductivity, due to the reduced swelling of the base clay mineral phase. Electrokinetic properties of the organoclays illustrated that compared with the clay's naturally occurring inorganic cations, exchanged quaternary ammonium cations were more likely bound within a particle's shear plane. Consequently, organoclays had less negative zeta potential than that of unmodified bentonite. Increasing the length of one carbon tail was more effective at binding organic cations within the shear plane than increasing the size of the cation, when compared on the basis of total organic carbon content. In terms of large strain strength, the modified organic clays exhibited increased shear strength, in part owing to the reduction in water content caused by the presence of the hydrophobic organic layering. Shear strength increased with single carbon tail length or with cation size, although the latter effect tended to reach a plateau as the length of the four short cation tails increased from 2 to 4. In terms of small strain behavior, the shear modulus was shown to be a function of the total organic carbon content. It is believed that number of particle contacts increased as the organic carbon content increased. Stiffness increased as either the size of the cation or the total organic carbon content was increased. Damping also increased as the organic loading was increased, with the organic phase acting as an energy dissipation mechanism.