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NECESSARY (Net zEro CEments for Soil Stabilisation via wAste RecoverY)

   Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment

  , Dr B Magee  Monday, February 27, 2023  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This is an exciting opportunity to work on an industrial PhD research project at Ulster University with the UK’s leading specialist in ‘deep soil mixing’ (DSM) ground improvement, Deep Soil Mixing Ltd.

The UK is upgrading and expanding its highway and railway infrastructure. Significant sections of these infrastructure networks cross large areas of soft ground (e.g. river floodplains). To permit construction in such troublesome areas, ‘heavy engineering’ solutions such as reinforced-concrete piling are commonly used. However, this approach is unfavourable due to: 1) the high costs of Portland cement and steel in concrete and 2) Portland cement manufacture generates 8-10% of global CO2 emissions.

An increasingly popular alternative ground improvement technique that: 1) produces zero waste; 2) achieves engineering strengths comparable with concrete and 3) makes time savings is DSM. DSM involves injecting cementitious binders into the ground, which produces a ‘soil-concrete’ to form foundations and remediate contaminated land. 

To date, DSM has used Portland cement binders. However, continuing this approach is unsustainable if the civil engineering industry is to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5oC. It is therefore NECESSARY to expedite the development/commercialisation of Portland cement-free binders.

The ‘NECESSARY’ project will develop a new generation of Portland cement-free Net zEro carbon CEments for deep mixing Soil Stabilisation via wAste RecoverY. Focus will be paid towards valorising some of the UK’s largest and ‘untapped’ waste reserves (e.g. quarry dusts, excavated soils/rocks, plastics), representing >220m tonnes/year. This sustainable approach will facilitate growth within the UK’s circular economy.

Working with Deep Soil Mixing Ltd will have the added benefits of using findings from the NECESSARY project in developing new low-carbon ‘state-of-the-art’ practice in DSM ground improvement technology. Furthermore, this will provide pathways to impact in the ground engineering industry that will benefit engineering infrastructure stakeholders.


Sargent, P., Hughes, P. N., Rouainia, M. and White, M. L., 2013. The use of alkali activated waste binders in enhancing the mechanical properties and durability of soft alluvial soils. Engineering Geology, 152, pp96-108.
Sargent P., 2015. Alkali activated mixtures for soil stabilisation, in Pacheco-Torgal, F., Labrincha, J., Leonelli, C., Palomo, A. and Chindaprasit, P. (Eds.), Handbook of alkali activated cements, mortars and concretes. Woodhead Pub. ISBN 978-1-78242-276-1.
Sargent, P., Hughes, P. N. and Rouainia, M., 2016. A new low carbon cementitious binder for stabilising weak ground conditions through deep soil mixing. Soils and Foundations, 56 (6), pp1021-1034.
Sargent, P., Jaber, N. H. and Rouainia, M., 2020. Mineralogy and microstructure effects on the stiffness of activated slag treated alluvium. Geotechnique Letters, 10, pp1-9. jgele.19.00055.
Gonzalez, J., Sargent, P. and Ennis, C., 2021. Sewage treatment sludge biochar activated blast furnace slag as a low carbon binder for soft soil stabilisation. Journal of Cleaner Production, 311, 127553.

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