Biodegradable prefabricated vertical drains (BPVDs) made from natural fibres have been in use for several decades to improve soft soil, especially in East and Southeast Asia despite the fact that this type of drain has still not been fully addressed and evaluated. This study presents a series of laboratory tests where a drain made from coconut cores wrapped in Indian jute sheath filters is compared to conventional synthetic prefabricated vertical drains (SPVDs). Discharge volume tests are carried out with and without soil clogging to understand how jute drains can resist soil clogging under increasing confining pressure. Along with these macro-hydraulic tests, the influence that the micro-characteristics of natural fibre drains can have on their hydraulic conductivity is also examined using micro-CT scanning and an optical microscopic to capture the micro-details of these drains. This study shows that the porous structure of BPVDs is much more complex than SPVDs, which causes them to have a lower discharge capacity. Unlike SPVDs, micro-properties also play an important role in the hydraulic properties of BPVDs. A pilot project in soft soil at Ballina, Australia, where BPVDs were installed in parallel to SPVDs, was used to evaluate their performance in assisting soil consolidation considering the biodegradation of natural fibres. The identical performance of these two types of PVDs added further evidence to prove how well BPVDs can facilitate soil consolidation.
Available for download on Saturday, June 26, 2021