Use of bacterial ureolysis for improved gelation of silica sol in rock grouting

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Low pH silica-based grouts suitable for penetrating fine aperture fractures are
increasingly being developed for use in engineering applications. Silica sol has an
initial low viscosity and mixing with an accelerator destabilises the suspension
producing a gel. The influence of sodium, calcium and ammonium chloride
accelerators on gel time, rate of gelation and shear strength of the resulting gel were investigated in this study. For the first time the potential use of bacterial ureolysis as an accelerator for the destabilisation of silica sol was also explored. This study demonstrates that bacterial ureolysis can be used to control the gelation of silica sol. The rate of ureolysis increases with increasing bacterial density, resulting in faster gel times and higher rates of gelation. In addition, for grouts with similar gel times, using bacterial ureolysis to induce destabilisation results in a higher rate of gelation, a higher final shear strength and a more uniform gel than direct addition of the corresponding chemical accelerator. These results suggest that bacterial ureolysis could potentially be used in rock grouting to achieve long gel times and hence greater penetration, while also maintaining sufficiently rapid gelation to minimise issues related to fingering and erosion of the fresh grout.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180–184
Number of pages5
JournalGeotechnique Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • bacterial ureolysis
  • improved gelation
  • silica sol
  • rock grouting


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