Waste-to-energy ash for treating highly expansive clays in road pavements

Z. Zimar, D. Robert, A. Sidiq, A. Zhou, F. Giustozzi, S. Setunge, J. Kodikara

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Expansive clays are problematic soils as they contain minerals that swell when wetted and shrink during drying. Highway construction on expansive soils requires some form of chemical stabilisation or other treatments to improve pavement performance. Many commercial and waste by-products, such as cement, lime, fly ash and slag, are used as chemical stabilisers to treat expansive clays. Municipal solid waste incineration (MSWI) fly ash is a product obtained from waste-to-energy plants which have attracted increasing attention to prevent land contamination and to reduce landfill costs. This paper investigates the stabilisation mechanism and hydro-mechanical performance of MSWI fly ash-stabilised high plasticity expansive clays. In this study, compressive strength, California bearing ratio (CBR), dynamic cone penetration, shrinkage and swelling, X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) tests were conducted to understand the performance of MSWI fly ash for the treatment of high-plasticity expansive clay. The study found that MSWI fly ash reduces swelling potential and increases the ten-day soaked CBR to about 80%. Microlevel analysis showed that hydration reaction, cationic exchange, flocculation, and agglomeration between clay sheets are the key phases in MSWI fly ash stabilisation. In addition, the porosity of the clay reduced from 3.43% to 0.18% after stabilisation with 20% MSWI fly ash. The outcomes from the study provide guidance on using MSWI ash for improving problematic soils while enabling an efficient way to manage municipal solid wastes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number133854
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2022


  • Expansive soil
  • Fly ash
  • MSWI fly ash
  • Municipal solid waste incineration
  • Road pavements
  • Soil stabilisation

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