Materials and Structures

, 51:32 | Cite as

A microstructural insight into the hygro-mechanical behaviour of a stabilised hypercompacted earth

  • Agostino Walter BrunoEmail author
  • Céline Perlot
  • Joao Mendes
  • Domenico Gallipoli
Original Article


The use of raw earth as construction material can save embodied and operational energy because of low processing costs and passive regulation of indoor ambient conditions. Raw earth must however be mechanically and/or chemically stabilised to enhance stiffness, strength and water durability. In this work, stiffness and strength are enhanced by compacting raw earth to very high pressures up to 100 MPa while water durability is improved by using alkaline solutions and silicon based admixtures. The effect of these stabilisation methods on hygro-mechanical behaviour is explored and interpreted in terms of the microstructural features of the material. Stiffness and strength are defined at different humidity levels by unconfined compression tests while the moisture buffering capacity is measured by humidification/desiccation cycles as prescribed by the norm ISO 24353 (Hygrothermal performance of building materials and products determination of moisture adsorption/desorption properties in response to humidity variation. International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, 2008). As for the microstructural characterisation, different tests (i.e. X-ray diffractometry, Infrared Spectroscopy, Mercury Intrusion Porosimetry, Nitrogen Adsorption) are performed to analyse the effect of stabilisation on material fabric and mineralogy. Results indicate that the use of alkaline activators and silicon based admixtures significantly improves water durability while preserving good mechanical and moisture buffering properties. Similarly, the compaction to very high pressures results in high levels of stiffness and strength, which are comparable to those of standard masonry bricks. This macroscopic behaviour is then linked to the microscopic observations to clarify the mechanisms through which stabilisation affects the properties of raw earth at different scales.


Rammed earth Porosimetry Earth stabilisation Passive air conditioning Moisture buffering Mechanical behaviour 



The financial contribution of the “Conseil regional d’Aquitaine”, the “Agglomération Côte Basque Adour” through the project MECAD “Matériaux Eco-renforcés pour la Construction et l’Aménagement Durable” (dossier no. 20131101001) is gratefully acknowledged. The “Laboratoire Matériaux et Durabilité des Constructions” (LMDC, Toulouse) is also acknowledged for allowing the authors to perform Infrared Spectroscopy tests.


This study was funded by the “Conseil régional d’Aquitaine” and the “Agglomération Côte Basque Adour” through the project MECAD “Matériaux Eco-renforcés pour la Construction et l’Aménagement Durable” (dossier n. 20131101001).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© RILEM 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire SIAME - Bâtiment ISABTP, Fédération IPRA, EA4581Université de Pau et des Pays de l’AdourAngletFrance
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical and Civil EngineeringNorthumbria UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK

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