Research On Geosynthetic Materials

October 5, 2010

Geosynthetic Applications

Geosynthetics are sheet polymeric materials used in civil engineering.  They have been used since the 1970s in geotechnical (soil) structures for functions such as separation, reinforcement, drainage, filtration, liquid containment and as gas barriers.  In practice this has included applications as diverse as reinforcement in the walls of the Pentagon, reservoir liners, canal liners, road reinforcement, retaining walls, sports fields, dams, landfill liners, embankment stabilization, tree containers, chemical tank liners, and as base and roofing membranes for new buildings.  There is an increasing trend to use recyclates in geosynthetics, particularly PET from bottle recovery.

Geosynthetics often play critical roles in civil engineering and it is important that the materials in use can withstand the physical and chemical pressures of the environment. These range from resistance to leachates from landfill to resistance to root damage in soil liners, as well as standard properties such as resistance to creep, oxidation and UV light, and tensile strength.  This has resulted in sets of test standards being developed by the EU, ISO, BSI and ASTM.

There are several main categories of geosynthetics: geotextiles, geomembranes, geosynthetic clay liners, geogrids and geonets.  This review discusses the polymers used in each type, production methods, test methods and applications.

Geotextiles are permeable fabrics comprising around 75% of all geosynthetics.  Globally, 1,400 million square metres are used each year and the trend in consumption is upwards.  Polypropylene comprises the bulk of this with polyester as the second most commonly used material, Polymer properties and economics decide on material choice. Natural fibers are being used where durability is less important.

Geomembranes are thin flexible sheets with very low permeability.  They are used as barriers to the passage of gases of liquids.  Butyl rubber was the first material used, but now PVC and polyethylene are the most common materials.  Uses include landfill odor control, facing of dams and reservoir liners.

Geosynthetic clay liners are structures containing a clay layer and used as water barriers.  Thus the main component is a clay mineral, bentonite.  They can be used instead of geomembranes or as a second line of defense to geomembranes.

Geogrids are sheets of tensile elements with a regular network of apertures, usually constructed of polyethylene, polypropylene or polyester.  The most common use is for reinforcement of unstable soil and waste masses.

Geonets are composite grid constructions used for drainage capabilities.  Usually a geotextile is used as the drainage core with an upper and lower section of geomembrane.


Advantages and Disadvantages Of Commonly Used Synthetic Geomembranes

September 28, 2010

Advantages & Disadvantages of Common Geomembrane Types

Geomembrane quality begins with base polymer resin selection.  It is important to select or specify high-grade polymer resins that have been manufactured to meet the specific, unique demands encountered by geomembranes.

Polymeric geomembrane properties are a function of the chemical structure of the base polymer resin, the molecular weight, the molecular weight distribution and the polymer morphology (e.g. the crystallinity).  Next, it is necessary to select the right combination of additives to protect the geomembrane, such as premium carbon black as well as antioxidant additives and stabilizer to ensure long life even in exposed conditions.  Finally, it is necessary to select the most appropriate geomembrane manufacturing & installation method.




HDPE Broad chemical resistance
Good weld strength
Good low temperature properties
Relatively inexpensive
Potential for stress cracking
High degree of thermal expansion
Poor puncture resistance
Poor multiaxial strain properties
LLDPE Better flexibility than HDPE
Better layflat than HDPE
Good multiaxial strain properties
Inferior UV resistance to HDPE
Inferior chemical resistance to HDPE
fPP Can be factory fabricated and folded

so fewer field fabricated seams
Excellent multiaxial properties
Good conformability
Broad seaming temperature window

Limited resistance to hydrocarbons

and chlorinated water

PVC Good workability and layflat

Easy to seam
Can be folded so fewer field

fabricated seams

Poor resistance to UV and ozone

unless specially formulated
Poor resistance to weathering

Poor performance at high and low


CSPE Outstanding resistance to UV and

Good performance at low

Good resistance to chemicals, acids

and oils

Cannot be thermally welded after


EPDM Good resistance to UV and ozone
High strength characteristics
Good low temperature performance
Excellent layflat behaviour
Low resistance to oils, hydrocarbons

and solvents
Poor seam quality

Butyl rubber Good resistance to UV and

Good resistance to ozone

Relatively low mechanical properties
Low tear strength
Low resistance to hydrocarbons
Difficult to seam
Nitrile rubber Good resistance to oils and fuels (but

not biodiesel)

Poor ozone resistance unless properly


Poor tear strength

Floating Covers For Potable Water

September 21, 2010

Floating Cover Systems For Potable Water

Floating covers prevent losses through evaporation.  Odor and taste free, they help protect potable water supplies by minimizing reservoir contamination from dust and dirt, leaves, insects, animals, etc.  Literally tons of such debris can collect at the bottom of uncovered reservoirs.  This can actually trap chlorine, and make it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a sufficient amount in the water itself.

Floating covers also exclude sunlight.  This reduces problems with algae growth and chlorine depletion.  Floating cover systems are customized for each client’s lagoon or tank size and shape.

The American Water Works Association and many states recommend covering all reservoirs containing potable water that will be delivered directly to customers.  Some states even require it.

Floating cover applications:

  • any type of gas collection from water basin
  • keep rain & snowmelt water separate from wastewater under the cover

Landfill Liner Systems

September 17, 2010

Environmental Containment Systems

Liner systems are containment elements constructed under the waste to control infiltration of contaminated liquids into the subsoil or groundwater.  The contaminated liquid, or leachate, may be part of the waste itself or may originate from water that has infiltrated into the waste.

Liner systems consist of multiple layers which fulfill specific functions.  The description presented below refers specifically to landfill liner systems.  However, the main characteristics of liner systems are similar for other applications.  Landfill liner systems may consist, from top to bottom, of the following functional layers:

Protective layer
This is a layer of soil, or other appropriate material, that separates the refuse from the rest of the liner to prevent damage from large objects.

Leachate collection layer
This is a high-permeability layer, whose function is to collect leachate from the refuse and to convey it to sumps from where it is removed.  Frequently the functions of the protective layer and the leachate collection layer are integrated in one single layer of coarse granular soil.

Primary liner
This is a low-permeability layer (or layers of two different low-permeability materials in direct contact with each other).  Its function is to control the movement of leachate into the subsoil.

Secondary leachate collection layer or leakage detection layer
This is a high-permeability (or high transmissivity, if geosynthetic) layer designed to detect and collect any leachate seeping through the primary liner.  This layer is used only in conjunction with a secondary liner.

Secondary liner
This is a second (or backup) low-permeability layer (or layers of two different low-permeability materials in direct contact with each other).  Not all liner systems include a secondary liner.

Drainage layer
In cases where the liner system is close or below the water table, a high-permeability (or high transmissivity, if geosynthetic) blanket drainage layer is generally placed under the liner system to control migration of moisture from the foundation to the liner system.

This layer is generally of intermediate permeability. Its function is to separate the liner system from the natural subgrade or structural fill.

These layers are normally separated by geotextiles to prevent migration of particles between layers, or to provide cushioning or protection of geomembranes.

As indicated above, liner systems may have a primary liner only or may include primary and secondary liners.  In the first case it is called a single-liner system, and if it has a primary and a secondary liner it is called a double-liner system.  Also, each of the liners (primary or secondary) may consist of one layer only (low-permeability soil, geomembrane, or GCL) or adjacent layers of two of these materials, in which case it is called a composite liner.  There are multiple combinations of these names, some of which are given below as examples (obviously there are many more combinations):

• Single synthetic liner: primary liner only, consisting of a geomembrane.

• Single soil liner: primary liner only, consisting of a low-permeability soil layer.

Performance Factors That Influence Geomembrane Materials

September 15, 2010

Polymeric Geomembranes

The large number of commercially available geomembranes (or polymeric geosynthetic barriers) can make it challenging to select which geomembrane has the most appropriate combination of performance properties for a given application.  Each type of geomembrane material has different characteristics that affect its installation procedures, durability, lifespan and overall performance. It is therefore necessary to match the project performance criteria with the right combination of properties of a particular geomembrane.

Geomembrane materials are generally selected for their overall performance in key areas of chemical resistance, mechanical properties (elastic modulus, yield strength, puncture/ tear resistance), weathering resistance, product life expectancy, installation factors and cost effectiveness.  The properties of polymeric geomembranes are determined mainly by their polymer structure (architecture of the chains), molecular weight (i.e. the length of the chains) and the crystallinity (packing density of the chains).  Polymer crystallinity is one of the important properties of all polymers.  Polymers exist both in crystalline and amorphous forms.

Common geomembranes can be classified into two broad categories depending on whether they are thermoplastics (i.e. can be remelted) or thermoset (i.e. crosslinked or cured and hence cannot be remelted without degradation) (see Table).  Since thermoset geomembranes are crosslinked, they can exhibit excellent long-term durability.

When selecting a geomembrane for a particular application, the following aspects need to be considered:

Main plastic classifications for common geomembrane types

Thermoplastic Geomembranes Thermoset Geomembranes

Combinations of thermoplastic and thermoset

HDPE, LLDPE CSPE (crosslinks over time) PE-EPDM
fPP EPDM rubber PVC-nitrile rubber
PVC Nitrile rubber EPDM/TPE (Trelleborg)
EIA Butyl rubber Polymer-modified bitumen
TPU, PVDF Polychloroprene (Neoprene)
  • choice of polymer
  • type of fabric reinforcement
  • color of upper ply (e.g. white to maintain lower temperatures for sun exposed applications)
  • thickness
  • texture (e.g. smooth or textured for improved friction angles)
  • product life expectancy
  • mechanical properties
  • chemical resistance
  • ease of installation
Source: Guide To Polymeric Membranes

Floating Cover Systems For Odor Control and Gas Collection

September 13, 2010

Odor Control | Gas Collection

Odor Control & Gas Collection Covers are specifically designed for each client utilizing a variety of material options.  Cover applications can be used with any type of gas collection from water basin and keep rain and snowmelt water separate from wastewater under the cover. Advantages of a cover include installation without site interruption, use on tanks or lagoons, elimination of rainwater ponding problems, elimination of gas ballooning, provides high buoyancy and rigidity, hatches can provide access to in-basin equipment, improved quality with pre-manufactured panels and are fabricated at IEC’s plant, so field welding is not required.

Modular Cover System comprised of a series of individual casings connected together to form a complete floating cover system.  Each individual casing consists of a panel of closed cell insulation encapsulated between two sheets of durable geomembrane.  The result is a unique floating cover system that provides insulation values ranging from R-2 to R-30; and is engineered and manufactured to specific dimensions/basin requirements.

The Modular Cover System offers the following advantages over conventional covers systems:

  • maintenance free
  • can be installed on tanks or lagoons
  • adepts to varying water levels
  • individual casings are removable
  • installed without site interruption
  • shorter installation time, no field welding required
  • installation requires less heavy equipment
  • eliminates rainwater ponding problems
  • eliminates gas ballooning
  • high buoyancy and rigidity
  • hatches can provide access to in-basin equipment

Leachate Collection Systems Part 1

August 27, 2010

Components Of Leachate Collection Systems

There are many components to a collection system including pumps, manholes, discharge lines and liquid level monitors.  However, there are four main components which govern the overall efficiency of the system.  These four elements are liners, filters, pumps and sumps


Natural and synthetic liners may be utilized as both a collection device, and as a means for isolating leachate within the fill to protect the soil and groundwater below.  The chief concern is a liners ability to maintain integrity and impermeability over the life of the landfill.  Subsurface water monitoring, leachate collection, and clay liners are commonly included in the design and construction of a waste landfill.  To effectively serve the purpose of containing leachate in a landfill, a liner system must possess a number of physical properties.  The liner must have high tensile strength, flexibility, and elongation without failure.  It is also important that the liner resists abrasion, puncture, and chemical degradation by leachate.  Lastly the liner must withstand temperature variation, be black (to resist UV light), easily installed, and economical.

There are several types of liners used in leachate control and collection.  These types include geomembranes, geosynthetic clay liners, geotextiles, geogrids, geonets, and geocomposites.  Each style of liner has specific uses and abilities.  Geomembranes, are used to provide a barrier between mobile polluting substances released from wastes, and the groundwater.  In the closing of landfills, geomembranes are used to provide a low-permeability cover barrier to prevent the intrusion of rain water.

Shown here is a leachate evaporation pond in a landfill site 

Leachate Collection Systems Part 2

Geosynthetic clay liners (GCLs) are fabricated by distributing sodium bentonite in a uniform thickness between woven and non-woven geotextiles.  Sodium bentonite has a low permeability which makes GCLs a suitable alternative to clay liners in a composite liner system.  Geotextiles are used as separation between two different types of soils to prevent contamination of the lower layer by the upper layer.  Geotextiles also act as a cushion to protect synthetic layers against puncture from underlying and overlaying rocks.  Geogrids are structural synthetic materials used in slope veneer stability to create stability for cover soils over synthetic liners or as soil reinforcement in steep slopes.  Geonets are synthetic drainage materials, which are often used in lieu of sand and gravel.  Geonets can replace 12 inches of drainage sand, thus increasing the landfill space for waste.  Geocomposites are a combination of synthetic materials ordinarily used singly.  A common type of geocomposite is a geonet heat bonded to two layers of geotextile, one on each side.  The geocomposite serves as a filter and drainage medium.

Geosynthetic clay liners are a type of combination liner.  One advantage to using a geosynthetic clay liner (GCL) is the ability to order exact amounts of the liner.  Ordering precise amounts from the manufacturer prevents surplus and over-spending.  Another advantage to GCL’s is the liner can serve appropriately in areas without an adequate clay source.  Conversely, GCL’s are heavy, cumbersome, and installation is very labor intensive.  In addition to be arduous and difficult under normal conditions, installation can be cancelled during damp conditions because the bentonite absorbs the water making it even more burdensome and tedious.

Geosynthetics – Geomembrane Liners

August 24, 2010

Geomembrane Liners

Geomembrane liners are impermeable sheets of polymer that are utilized in containment applications.  They are available in large custom panels or rolled goods that can be field seamed to form a barrier system.


  • High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), PVC, EPDM, Reinforce
  • polypropylene (RPP) & XR-5 liners
  • secondary containment systems
  • tank liners
  • landfill liners
  • pond liners
  • stud liner systems
  • golf course pond liners
  • pipe liners
  • leachate collection
  • potable water
  • lagoon liners

High Density Polyethylene Liners

August 19, 2010

HDPE- High Density Polyethylene Liners

HDPE is the most widely used geomembrane today.  It has been the choice of many for large critical containment applications.

  • Resistant to a wide range of chemicals on account of density >.94/cm3
  • Reliable in exposed environment due to high UV protection against degrading and low temperature brittleness
  • Typically delivered to the site in large rolls manufactured smooth or textured on one or both sided
  • Panels are heat welded in the field by certified technicians providing a high quality, test certified installation.

LLDPE – Linear Low Density Polyethylene Liners

LLDPE is a flexible membrane liner that can conform to any surface even in cold temperature.

  • High elongation, tear resistance and burst strength properties
  • Contains carbon black and UV stabilizers to enhance longevity and outdoor performance
  • Available in large rolled goods manufactured to be either smooth or textured on one or both sided to improve friction.
  • Custom size factory welded panels that are accordion folded and rolled for economical deployment in the field.

Reinforced Geomembrane Liners

Reinforced geomembrane liners are produced by extrusion laminating multiple layers of high strength polyethylene with tear resistant polyester scrim.

  • Scrim reinforcement enhances strength and resistance to tear
  • Excellent longevity in outdoor applications – UV inhibitors and carbon black
  • Manufactured and factory welded into large manageable panels
  • Panels are accordion folded and rolled for economical deployment in the field
  • Easy to install

PVC -Poly Vinyl Chloride Liners

PVC liners are extremely contractor friendly and offer many advantages over other liners.

  • Highly flexible so it easily conforms to sub grade contours.
  • Excellent interface friction properties without being textured
  • Excellent puncture and abrasion resistance
  • Superior chemical resistance to acids, alkalis, and alcohols
  • Excellent choice for buried applications to protect from exposure to sunlight.
  • Excellent material for complex sub grades common in smaller application.
  • Available in a variety of formulations including fish grade and oil resistant.
  • Can be contractor installed using PVC glue or Solvent

Maintenance Free Patented Design Floating Covers

August 17, 2010

Maintenance Free Floating Covers

Floating covers are a very economical method of protecting precious water.  The cost can be 20% of that for other cover options.  Industry-recognized guidelines exist for the design, installation and maintenance of floating cover systems.  An example is the American Waterworks Association (AWWA) standard D130-87, which contains the most current standard practices observed for system compliance to US national health and safety regulations.

The California-Nevada Section American Water Works Reservoir Floating Cover Guidelines dated March 1999 offers an excellent source of design, operations and maintenance guidelines.

Floating Covers are customized for each client’s lagoon or tank size and shape.  A series of lateral floats provide pathways for gas to flow underneath to the perimeter collection pipe and on to a single collection point.  The lateral floats keep the entire cover floating on the waters’ surface, and eliminate cover inflation, and exposure to wind damage.

Floating covers that inflate (without lateral floats) expose the geomembrane cover to vibration and geomembrane fatigue from wind constantly blowing over the inflated cover.  This significantly reduces the life span of the cover.  Ballast weights on top of the floating cover channel rainwater and snow melt to sumps to remove all rainwater from the surface of the floating cover.

Properly designed reservoir-floating cover systems prevent fluid loss due to evaporation, reduce chemical demand and improve water quality by preventing contamination from bird droppings, airborne particulates, dead animals, pollen and other pollutants.  Floating covers block off sunlight preventing algae bloom.  They also reduce the production of trialomethane (THM) type compounds such as chloroform from forming that result from the combining of organic substances with chlorine due to reductions in chlorine demand.

Floating cover systems were introduced over 30 years ago.  Many have provided a service life beyond 20 years.  When first introduced, materials and designs were not developed and in some cases had limited success. Today, with advancements in design and materials, floating covers offer the low cost quality solution of choice where water quality standards require potable water reservoirs be covered.