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Kathmandu, Nepal

November 20-21, 2014

International Symposium
Geohazards: Science, Engineering and Management
Paper No. OT-04

Stabilization of Black Cotton Soil using Sea Salt

Rajesh Prasad Shukla1 , Rajendra Prasad Tiwari2, Bal Krishna Agrawal1

1Government Engineering College, Rewa (M.P.), India
2Government Engineering College, Nowgong (M.P.), India
Corresponding Author, Email:
Key words
Black cotton soil,
Swelling, Salt, Index
properties, Optimum


Soil modification has emerged as a new area for research in the geotechnical
engineering and the main purpose of most of researches is to determine
optimum amount of additive with considering economy and effectiveness. In
present study, sea salt has been used as an additive. The effect of addition of
salt on properties of fine grained black cotton soil is determined in
laboratory. This soil exhibits volume change behaviour with variation in the
water content. Volume changes has caused reduction in sustainability of
structure supported on black cotton soil. From experimental results, it is
observed that plastic limit, liquid limit, plasticity index swelling pressure and
swelling index decrease with addition of salt in soil. Optimum moisture
content and maximum dry density are decreased and increased respectively
with addition of sea salt in the soil.


In Present study, fine grained black cotton soils collected from eastern Madhya Pradesh have
been considered for analysis. This soil consists of montmorillonite and illite minerals which
exhibit volume change behaviour with variation of water content. Expansive soils or black
cotton soil covers Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu,
Karnataka and some other parts of India as well. Lots of studies are available in literature which
consists of analysis and general information about problems and damages posed by the black
cotton soil ([1] - [9]). [7] has reported that USA is suffering from huge loss approximately two
million dollar annually. [9]has also mentioned that Britain has been experiencing loss of 3
billion euro within one year.
There are various techniques available to reduce the effect of volume change of the soil
due to change in water content within the soil mass. Ground modification is needed to change
the properties of a soil so that it will free from volume change and strength reduction and able
to maintain strength and stiffness. Soil characteristic can be altered and soil performance can
also be improved with various modification techniques such as surcharge application, dynamic
compaction, jet grouting, compaction grouting and soil mixing. The selection and success of
the used techniques depends on economy consideration, soil condition, level of modification
required and availability of material and instrumentation required for particular techniques. Soil
mixing is a relatively lesser widely used modification technique because of various
complications involved in it and this technique need manual labour as well. During last three
decades, lots of researches have been conducted in soil mixing and various stabilizing additives
have been identified for mixing, which are having positive impact on soil performance. There
are many studies available in literature where various type of materials have been used as
additives ([10]-[19]) and most common additives consist of sand, groundnut shell ash, lime,

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Kathmandu, Nepal
November 20-21, 2014

International Symposium
Geohazards: Science, Engineering and Management

fly ash, rice husk, sea salt, and silica fume. Some researchers have used salt as a mixing
material for modification and it has been observed that addition of salt has positive impact on
swelling soil.
A large part of Madhya Pradesh consists of black cotton soil and effect of soil can be
easily observed in buildings, road and soil surface as well. Many houses and roads have
experienced cracks and damages due to its swelling and contractive characteristics of soil. For
government lots of remedial techniques are available but common people do not have many
alternatives as they do not have sufficient money and technical knowledge. Sea salt has been
used as an additive as sea salt is easily available for common being at low price.
There are few studies available in literature which state that salt has a positive impact on
the engineering behaviour and performance of high plasticity clays, especially on clays having
swelling characteristic ([20]-[28]). Most of researches have considered the index properties of
soil only, but few studies are available in literature where properties such as swelling potential,
hydraulic conductivity and shear strength have been considered for analysis as well. However,
from the literature study, it is observed that the results of the studies are contradicting and the
effect of added salt not only depends upon the soil property but also on the added salt quantity.
Fine-grained soils having montmorillonite minerals show high plasticity index and high affinity
to water. Absorption and expulsion of water leads to volume change. Soil volume change is a
very crucial matter and has strong potential for research. In the present study, sea salt has been
used as additive and the objective of present study is to determine the effect of addition of sea
salt on black cotton soil in term of change in index properties, swelling characteristic of soil,
optimum moisture content and strength of soil. First, geotechnical properties of the black cotton
soils were determined. Swelling parameters, free swell and swell pressure were determined as
well. Secondly, all tests were repeated for same sea salt added soil.


Material used in study

Soils used in present study are collected from north-eastern part of Madhya Pradesh at a depth
of 1.5m below the ground surface. This area comes under hot and sub humid region and consist
of red soil mixed with clay and black cotton soil as well. In this region, cracks are common in
houses (figure 3) as soils have medium to high shrinkage and swelling potential. Samples were
collected from three different places and a little variation has been observed in their respective
properties. The average shear strength of three soil samples compacted to OMC was 305.00
kPa. Properties of expansive soil used in the study are summarized in Table 1 and it confirms
that soil have high plasticity and swelling potential. Figure 1 shows that soil used in present
analysis consist of 46% clay and 39% silt and both together govern the behaviour of soil mass.
Table 1, 0 Properties of soil used in study
Soil Properties
Clay %
Silt %
Sand %


Liquid Limit (%)

Plastic Limit (%)


Specific Gravity
Plasticity Index (%)


Soil Properties
Free Swell Index, FSI (%)
Cohesion (kN/m2)
Angle of internal friction
OMC (%)
Maximum Dry Density
Soil Classification

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Percentage finer

Kathmandu, Nepal
November 20-21, 2014


International Symposium
Geohazards: Science, Engineering and Management

Particle size distribution curve
Figure 1, Grain size distribution of curve

Figure 2, Soil sample collected for analysis


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Kathmandu, Nepal
November 20-21, 2014

International Symposium
Geohazards: Science, Engineering and Management


Figure 3, (a) Cracks Observed in field (b) A typical cracks in houses; (c) Cracks in PCC roads in north-eastern part
of Madhya Pradesh


Experimental Set-Up and Procedure

First index properties and in-situ moisture content of all soil samples are determined in
laboratory as per Indian standard codes. The maximum dry density and optimum water content
of soil samples were determined in the laboratory with plain water and sea salt added water.
From literature review it is observed that the optimum amount of salt used varies from 15mg/l
to 20mg/l and present study used 17mg/l of salt. The specific gravity, water content, liquid
limit and plastic limit, Shrinkage limit and grain size distribution curve of the black cotton soils
samples were determined as per IS: 2720( Part III :(1980), IS : 2720 (Part II) 1973, IS : 2720
(Part V ) 1985, IS : 2720 (Part VI) 1972, and IS : 2720 ( Part IV) - 1985 respectively.
The procedure for determination of OMC was determined by same method as described in
IS: 2720, Part VII: 1980. For determination of free swell index of soils, a method describe in
IS: 2700(Part XL): 1997 have been used in this study. Similarly for determination of swelling
pressure of soil, a method described in IS: 2700, Part XLI: 1997, second section is used.
Compaction parameters of the soils samples were determined by the Standard Proctor method
as per IS: 2720 (Part VII)1980. CBR test were conducted on a soil sample with optimum
moisture content compacted to the maximum dry density as per IS: 2720 (Part 16)

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Kathmandu, Nepal
November 20-21, 2014


International Symposium
Geohazards: Science, Engineering and Management

Results and Discussions

There are no any general and common consensuses available on literature regarding the effect
of sea salt on the characteristics of soil such as swelling characteristics, physical characteristic
and compaction parameter of fine grained black cotton soil. Results of earlier research were
contradicting and the main affecting parameters are soil plasticity and amount of salt added in
soil. Salt changes the nature of pore water present in soil and reaction between soil molecules
and sea salts make it a ground modification agent. Addition of salt on soil cause changes in the
properties of soil as it initiate colloidal reaction, and acts as soil flocculent and the result of this
reaction will lead to reduction in the thickness of diffused double layer water ([29] and [30]).

4.1. Index Properties

Addition of salt in black cotton soil reduces the liquid limit to 46.82% from 68%. It may be
concluded that the sea salt has reduced the thickness of the diffused double layer by
flocculation of clay particles that leads to the reduction of liquid limit of black cotton soil clay.
[19], [24], [28] and [31] have made similar observations
After addition of salt in black cotton soil, plastic limit reduced to 13.54% from 24%. [19],
[24] and [28] have concluded the same outcome.
Plasticity index is decreased to 28.99% from 44%. This reduction is huge compared to
plastic limit. [19] and [24] observed a reduction in plasticity index of expansive soil after
addition of salt. High value of plasticity index and high activity of a soil indicates the high
swelling potential. So addition of sea salt do cause reductions in plasticity indicate.

4. 2. Swelling Characteristics
Total three samples were tested in laboratory and found that the free swelling have been
reduced with a great amount due to addition of salt in soil. Average swell of soil was initially
93.20% and that have been reduced to 72.6% after addition of sea salt. Swell index for all five
samples is presented in table 2. [31] and [32] and [33], have also observed a reduction in
percentage swell due to addition of salt.
Without salt addition, an average swell pressure of 76.08 kN/m2 was recorded. Addition
of salt reduces the average swell pressure to 72.24 kN/m2. Thus it shows reduction of
approximately 5% compared to original value. Swell pressure for all five soil samples are
shown in table 2. [23], [34] and [35] have made similar kind of observation.
Table 2, Swelling properties of soil
Sample No.

Swell Index
without salt (%)

Swell Index with

salt (%)

Swell pressure

Swell pressure
with salt (kN/m2)

4.4. Unconfined compressive strength

There was little variation in the observed values of compressive strength of soil and it can be
concluded that strength remained almost same for both mixed and unmixed soils. A result of
one test is shown in figure 2.0, where strength of soil has been increased, but it is not possible

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Kathmandu, Nepal
November 20-21, 2014

International Symposium
Geohazards: Science, Engineering and Management

to draw a conclusion from few tri-axial test results. More numbers of tests are required to draw
a conclusion regarding change in strength of soil. [36] concluded that increase in shear strength
has been observed due to the reduction of thickness of diffused double layer of water
surrounding the clay particles. Soil particles become closer as thickness of diffused double
layer decrease and it lead to increase in shear strength. Results are well matching with [19].

Stress (kPa)

soil without salt


Soil with salt





Strains (%)
Figure 4, Stress-strain plot of soil

4.5 Optimum moisture content and Maximum dry density

Maximum dry density (g/cc)

Initially the maximum dry density was 1.76 gm/cm3 and corresponding water content is 19%.
Result of test is shown in figure 3. Test have repeated with addition of salt and observed that
the optimum moisture content have decreased and density have been increased. [19] and [37]
have made similar observations.

With sea salt


Without seasalt





Water content (%)

Figure 5, Optimum moisture content of soil

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Kathmandu, Nepal
November 20-21, 2014


International Symposium
Geohazards: Science, Engineering and Management


All the laboratory tests were conducted in accordance with Indian standards codes. Index
properties, swelling properties and OMC of black cotton soil are determined in laboratory.
Index properties such as liquid limit, plastic limit and plasticity index of fine grained soils has
been decreased with addition of salt in soil. Shear strength of soil was also changed minutely,
but authors are not sure that shear strength will increase for all soil. More number of tests is
required on soil of different plasticity to draw a certain conclusion regarding the change in
strength of soil. Swelling characteristic is a main characteristic of black cotton soil and it is
observed that with the addition of salt, swelling pressure and swelling index has been reduced
by a significant amount. Optimum moisture content has decreased and density has been
increased with addition of black cotton soil. From all observation made in present study it can
be concluded that sustainability of soil and structure on black cotton soil will increase with the
addition of sea salt.

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