Shear strength recovery of sand with self-healing polymeric capsules

Rui Qi, Ke Chen, Hongjie Lin, Antonios Kanellopoulos, Liu Deyun, Anthony Kwan Leung, Sérgio D. N. Lourenço

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Self-healing approaches are increasingly being explored in various fields as a potential method to recover damaged material properties. By self-recovering without external intervention, self-healing techniques emerge as a potential solution to arrest or prevent the development of large strains problems in soils (e.g., landslides) and other ground effects that influence the serviceability of structures (e.g., differential settlement). In this study, a microcapsule-based self-healing sand was developed, and its performance during mixing and compaction, shearing, and recovery of shear strength was demonstrated. The cargo used for sand improvement, a hardening oil, tung oil, was encapsulated in calcium alginate capsules by the ionic gelation method. The surface properties, internal structure, thermal stability and molecular structure of the capsules were evaluated by advanced material characterization techniques. The survivability of capsules during mixing and compaction was assessed by measuring the content of tung oil released into the sand, while their influence on sand shear strength and its recovery was assessed with shear box tests. The results showed that the capsules could rupture due to movement of the sand particles, releasing the tung oil cargo, leading to its hardening and minimizing its strain-softening response and enhancing up to 76% of the sand shear strength (at a normal stress of 10 kPa and capsules content of 4%). This study demonstrates the potential of a capsules-based self-healing system to provide ‘smart’ autonomous soil strength recovery and thus with potential to actively control the large strain behavior of soils.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalActa Geotechnica
Early online date23 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Mar 2024


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