California earthquake: How SOIL could save buildings from Big One – ‘Time is running out’

In 1964, an earthquake in Japan made the ground so unstable, an apartment building tipped over to the point locals had to walk down the side of the building to escape. This incident was caused by soil liquefaction, where otherwise solid soil temporarily behaved as a viscous liquid.

The phenomenon occurs in water-saturated soils affected by seismic waves, cause ground vibrations during earthquakes.

Now a research team has come up with an inventive solution to such earthquake carnage, by enlisting the help of soil microbes.

Professor Leon van Paassen is part of the Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics (CBBG) at Arizona State University team investigating the inventive earthquake protection.

He told “We have been studying biological process and the main aim is to see if we can use them to improve ground properties.

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But Professor van Paassen is “excited” by his research’s potential to prevent this from happening.

He added: “The challenge is to find a method of stabilising soils underneath existing structures.

“The idea of our proposed solution is that we can inject the food for the microbes in the ground over large distances”.

“So, we will be able to reach the ground underneath existing structures.

“We have also been studying other processes, including some processes, where we feed the microbes, which cements the soils, that’s maybe a more long-term durable solution.”

Because of the technique’s non-invasive nature, the researchers ultimately are hoping their microbial technique could be applied to liquefaction-prone landscapes around the world –

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particularly those where infrastructure is already in place and cannot be easily fortified without digging it up.


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