Geotextile is a synthetic permeable textile material used to improve the soil characteristics. It has the ability to separate, filter, reinforce, protect and drain when used in association with soils. Geotextiles are ideal materials for many infrastructure works such as roads, harbors, landfills, drainage structures, and other civil projects.

various uses of geotextiles
Fig 1: Uses of Geotextile in various places.

Types of Geotextile

Geotextiles are made up of polymers such as polyester or polypropylene. They are divided into 3 categories on the basis of the way they are prepared :
1) Woven Fabric Geotextiles
2) Non-Woven Geotextiles
3) Knitted Geotextiles

1. Woven Fabric Geotextile

Commonly found geotextiles are of the woven type and are manufactured by adopting the techniques which are similar to weaving usual clothing textiles. This type has the characteristic appearance of two sets of parallel threads or yarns. The yarn running along the length is called warp and the one perpendicular is called weft. (As shown in the figure below)

woven geotextile
Fig 2: Woven Geotextile.

2. Non-Woven Geotextile

Non-woven geotextiles are manufactured from either continuous filament yarn or short staple fiber. The bonding of fibers is done using thermal, chemical or mechanical techniques or a combination of techniques.

non-woven geotextile
Fig 3: Non-Woven Geotextile.

Geo-fibers obtained from mechanical interlocking or chemical or thermal bonding have a thickness of 0.5-1 mm while chemically bonded non-wovens are comparatively thick usually in the order of 3 mm.

3. Knitted Geotextile

Knitted geotextiles are manufactured by the process of interlocking a series of loops of yarn together. All of the knitted geosynthetics are formed by using the knitting technique in conjunction with some other method of geosynthetics manufacture, such as weaving.

knitted geotextiles
Fig 4: Knitted Geotextile.

Apart from these three geotextiles, other geosynthetics used are geonets, geogrids, geo-cells, geomembranes, geocomposites, etc. each having their own distinct features and uses for special applications.

Recommended Read:Geosynthetics in Civil Engineering and Construction Works

Functions of Geotextiles

The mode of operation of a geotextile in any application is defined by six discrete functions :

functions of geotextiles
Fig 5: Functions of Geotextiles.

1. Separation

The separation function of geotextile is majorly used in the construction of roads. Geotextile prevents the intermixing of two adjacent soils. For example, by separating fine subgrade soil from the aggregates of the base course, the geotextile preserves the drainage and the strength characteristics of the aggregate material.

Some of the applicable areas are:

  • Between subgrade and stone base in unpaved and paved roads and airfields.
  • Between subgrade in railroads.
  • Between landfills and stone base courses.
  • Between geomembranes and sand drainage layers.

2. Filtration

The equilibrium of geotextile-to-soil system that allows for adequate liquid flow with limited soil loss across the plane of the geotextile. Porosity and permeability are the major properties of geotextiles which involve infiltration action.

A common application illustrating the filtration function is the use of a geotextile in a pavement edge drain, as shown in the figure above.

3. Reinforcement

Introduction of geotextile in the soil increases the tensile strength of the soil the same amount steel does in concrete. The strength gain in soil due to the introduction of geotextile is by the following 3 mechanisms :

  • Lateral restraint through interfacial friction between geotextile and soil/aggregate.
  • Forcing the potential bearing surface failure plane to develop an alternate higher shear strength surface.
  • Membrane type of support of the wheel loads.

4. Sealing

A layer of non-woven geotextile is impregnated in between existing and new asphalt layers. The geotextile absorbs asphalt to become a waterproofing membrane minimising vertical flow of water into the pavement structure.

Uses of Geotextile in Construction

The scope of geotextile in the engineering field is very vast. The application of geotextile is given under the heading of the nature of work.

1. Road Work

Geotextiles are widely used in the construction of the road. It reinforces the soil by adding tensile strength to it. It is used as a rapid de-watering layer in the roadbed, the geotextiles need to preserve its permeability without losing its separating functions.

geotextile in road construction
Fig 6: Use of Geotextile in road construction.

2. Railway Works

The woven fabrics or the non-woven ones are used to separate the soil from the sub-soil without impeding the groundwater circulation where the ground is unstable. Enveloping individual layers with fabric prevents the material from wandering off sideways due to shocks and vibrations from running trains.

geotextile in railways

Fig 7: Use of Geotextile in railways.

3. Agriculture

It is used for mud control. For the improvement of muddy paths and trails those used by cattle or light traffic, nonwoven fabrics are used and are folded by overlapping to include the pipe or a mass of grit.

4. Drainage

The use of geotextiles to filter the soil and a more or less single size granular material to transport water is increasingly seen as a technically and commercially viable alternative to the conventional systems. Geotextiles perform the filtering mechanism for drainages in earth dams, in roads and highways, in reservoirs, behind retaining walls, deep drainage trenches, and agriculture.

Geotextile in drain construction

Fig 8: Use of Geotextile in drain construction.

5. River, Canals and Coastal Works

Geotextiles protect river banks from erosion due to currents or lapping. When used in conjunction with natural or artificial enrockments, they act as a filter.

geotextile in canal construction

Fig 6: Use of Geotextile in canal construction.

Also Read: Geogrids – Its Types, Functions, Applications and Advantages in Construction