Mechanisms by which the inclusion of natural fibres enhance the properties of soil blocks for construction

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Soil blocks are widely used for construction, especially in less economically developed countries. Addition of agricultural waste fibres has been shown to improve the properties of these blocks, however unlike most composites the fibres are not bound to the soil matrix. Therefore, the reinforcement mechanisms are different and not well characterised. This article investigates these mechanisms through a series of experimental studies to inform the development of better guidance for practitioners, and hence improve housing for low-income communities. The microstructural characteristics were investigated using scanning electron microscopy, computerised tomography scan, optical microscope analysis and pull out testing. It was established that fibres in the soil matrix are randomly distributed with gaps between the fibres and soil matrix due to fibre shrinkage during drying of the blocks. It also found that natural fibres in soil matrix can either be pulled-out or rupture under load depending on the depth of fibres embedment in the soil matrix.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3835-3845
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Composite Materials
Issue number27
Early online date15 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • natural fibres
  • computerised tomography analysis
  • optical microscopy
  • scanning electron microscopy
  • soil blocks
  • pull out test


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