Geo-Alchemy (Turning Sand into Sandstone) and other Biogeotechnologies

Edward Kavazanjian, Jr., Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, Dis.M.ASCE, NAE 

Regents Professor, Ira A. Fulton Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, Arizona State University

Thursday, May 10, 4 p.m., Kearney 112 (reception to follow). 

Accommodations for disabilities may be made by contacting 541-737-1207 or  

Biogeotechnical engineering is based upon the premise that through 3.8 billion years of trial and error (i.e., evolution) nature has developed efficient and sustainable solutions to many of the problems that vex geotechnical engineers. The biogeotechnology that has gained the most attention over the past 15 years is calcium carbonate precipitation, wherein precipitation of calcium carbonate (calcite) is used to turn cohesionless sand into a sandstone-like material. Successes in laboratory testing and limited field trials suggest that this technique can non-disruptively improve the behavior of cohesionless soils. Applications of carbonate precipitation technology include fugitive dust control, tunneling in running and flowing sands, enhancement of foundation bearing capacity, and mitigation of the potential for earthquake-induced liquefaction. Other biogeotechnologies currently being explored by geotechnical engineers include development of root-inspired earth reinforcement and foundation systems, enhanced soil penetration and excavation systems, and motile subsurface investigation probes.  


Edward Kavazanjian, Jr., Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, NAE, is a Regents Professor and the Ira A. Fulton Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU). He joined the faculty at ASU in August 2005 after 20 years as a practicing geotechnical engineer. Dr. Kavazanjian has Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from M.I.T. and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He is recognized for his work on the properties of municipal solid waste, the design and construction of waste containment systems, geotechnical earthquake engineering, and the emerging field of biogeotechnical engineering. Since August 2015, he has been Director of the Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics, a National Science Foundation-funded Gen-3 Engineering Research Center headquartered at ASU.He is recipient of the 2009 Ralph B. Peck, the 2010 Thomas A. Middlebrooks, and the 2011 Karl Terzaghi awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers for his contributions to landfill engineering.  In February 2013 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.  I April 2018, he was elected a Distinguished Member of ASCE.  

About the series

The Edwards Lecture Series, initiated by Professor Harry Yeh in 2005, is named in honor of Miles Lowell Edwards, an engineering genius, known for his unique and successful inventions. His remarkable achievements included developing prosthetic heart valves, creating timber industry materials to debark trees, and enabling Boeing B-17 aircraft pumps to operate at high altitudes.  

Past lectures  

  • 2005: Michael Longuet-Higgins, “Mass Transport and Wave Damping over Rippled Sea Beds”
  • 2006: Colin Brown, “Modelling of and as Granular Media”
  • 2007: Chiang C. Mei, “Nonlinear Resonance in a Harbor” 
  • 2008: Jim Duncan Smith, “Flow, Sediment Transport, and Geomorphic Adjustment in Rivers”
  • 2009: Robert Guza, “Observations of Southern California Waves and Wave-Driven Processes”
  • 2010: Gary Parker, “Self-Stratification due to Suspended Sediment in Rivers and Turbidity Currents: the Delicate Balance of the Latter” 
  • 2011: Peter Rhines, “Exploring the Subpolar Oceans with Seagliders and Satellite Altimetry”
  • 2013: Greg Lawrence, “Waves and Currents: Hawking Radiation in the Hydraulics Laboratory”
  • 2014: Brian Kirby, “Geometrically Enhanced Differential Immunocapture: Using Obstacle Arrays in Microfluidic Devices to Enhance Efficient and Pure Rare Cell Capture from Fluid Suspensions” 
  • 2015: Juan Restrepo, “Taking Uncertainties into Account in Geosciences, Physics, and Engineering” 
  • 2016: Thomas E. Boothby, "Engineering Iron and Stone
  • 2017: Gregory G. Deierlein, "From Performance-Based Engineering to Earthquake Resilience
  • 2017: C. Michael Walton, "Innovation in Delivery of Transportation Infrastructure"
  • 2017: Jerome F. Hajjar, "Damage and Collapse Assessment in Steel and Composite Structures"
  • 2018: Reginald DesRoches, "Challenges and Opportunities for Reducing Earthquake Risks"