Geotextile Fabric: An Essential Material for a Range of Applications

Fabric is used in many ways and comes in different forms. They are used for everyday applications such as; clothing, bedding, upholstery, decorations, agriculture, etc. In this case, engineering. 

Geotextiles are technical textiles that combine textile engineering and civil engineering, providing solutions to natural disasters caused by climate change.

There are many applications to geotextiles with numerous benefits, forming the major component of geosynthetics.

Geotextiles are permeable fabrics commonly used in erosion control and maintenance of soil stability. They have been successfully used in road construction for more than 30 years, reaching different areas of engineering.

Geotextile Fabrics Explained

Geotextile Fabric

Geotextile fabrics are permeable fabrics that can separate, reinforce, filter, protect, or drain when used with soil, rock, or earth. The word “Geo” directly translates to ground or land.

These fabrics are usually used in geotechnical applications such as road constructions, retaining walls, dams, pipelines, earth retaining structures, drainage, earth dikes, etc.

Geotextiles are currently one of the most cost-effective and flexible materials for ground modifications. They are usually classified under geosynthetics, although they have several differences. One common feature they possess is their contribution to the environment, environmental engineering design, and geotechnical ability. 

However, geotextiles are made of natural or synthetic fibers, while geosynthetics are made of only synthetic fabric. It means all geotextiles are not geosynthetics, but all geosynthetics are geotextiles.

Geotextiles are typically made from polypropylene(PP) or polyester(PET).

Other polymers are used to make geotextiles, such as polyamide(PA) or nylon, polyvinyl alcohol(PVA), polyvinylidene chloride, and fiberglass, but PP and PET are used to a greater extent.

Sewing threads from geotextiles are usually made from PA, PP, PET, polyethylene, and polyvinylidene chloride. The warp-knitting technology is an excellent way to make geotextiles open up more room for reinforcement and add a simple sensor. This, in turn, makes available more options for a new design for multi-functional geotextiles(MFGs).

To properly evaluate a geotextile, it is necessary to identify the material type employed.

After production, the commercial geotextiles will vary in various ways, including mass per unit area and strength.

How are Geotextile Fabrics Produced?

Textile manufacturers produce geotextile fabric through the classic or conventional fabric manufacturing process(primarily used) and the special geotextile manufacturing process.

In classic geotextile processing, woven and non-woven products are considered. In contrast, in special geotextile processing, the end products are not the direct products of textile manufacturing. However, they have a similar appearance to classic geotextiles such as mats, nets, and webbings.

There are broadly three types of geotextiles; woven, non-woven, and knitted.

We’ll discuss the process of making the woven type of geotextiles since the woven process is always followed industrially.

The woven fabric is usually brought about by two batches of orthographically interlaced yarn or filament. The pattern is now dependent on the characteristics of the interlacement of yarns.

Classic geotextile production usually follows two steps: producing fibers (filaments, staple fibers, and slit films) and converting these materials into fabrics.

The first stage of processing is the filament stage which is done by penetrating molten polymer into spinnerets to produce filaments. The filaments are drawn depending on the molecular orientation found on the filament. The filaments now possess high tensile strength and modulus.

Production of more features means that filaments converted into spinnerets are then spun. They are now called monofilaments.

Next is the staple fiber stage. Here, the filaments are collected from spinnerets ranging from 2-10 cm in size. When you twist them, they become yarns.

Next is the slit film stage, which uses sharp blades during the melt ejection process. When these fibers are continuously fibrillated and fragmented, they become fibrillated yarn.

Non-woven geotextiles, on the other hand, are produced through two steps; web formation (aligning fibers that share specific orientation properties) and bonding the fibers through different means; thermal, spinlaying, chemical, or mechanical.

A Brief History of Geotextile Fabric

Geotextiles date back to the age of Pharaohs, where Egyptian site excavations showed the use of lines and grass mats. During these times, geotextiles were made with natural fibers, vegetation, and soil to improve the road.

Geotextiles were initially known as filter fabrics and are still regarded as such today. Then, they were mainly used as a replacement for granular soil filters.

In the 1950s, Robert J. Berrett presented geotextiles as a solution to handle erosion control situations. When R.J. Berrett started working with geotextiles, he used woven monofilament fabrics with an open area of 6-30% for easy permeability during filtration.

While woven geotextiles were used to control erosion in the 1950s, the 1970s welcomed the use of woven and non-woven geotextiles for retaining walls, underdrains, etc.

Types of Geotextile Fabric

Geotextiles are mainly divided into two types; Fabric based geotextiles and Fiber-based geotextiles.

Fabric-based geotextiles

  • Woven geotextiles

Woven geotextiles are the most used geotextiles employed in 70% of all geotextiles. Woven geotextiles are textiles made of a planar structure when some threads (warp and weft) are interwoven.

The fabric possesses robust mechanical features owing to its functions; reinforcement, separation, and filtration.

There are currently two classes of woven geotextiles; polypropylene-based woven geotextile straps and monofilament polyester fabrics.

  • Non-woven geotextiles

Non-woven geotextiles, on the other hand, are textiles that are only used in 5% of cases of geotextile use. Bonding materials make them through chemical or heat and needle punching.

Needle-punched non-woven geotextiles are the most used non-woven geotextiles in many civil engineering applications etc. They are usually made with synthetic fibers; their main functions are separation and filter application.

  • Knitted geotextiles

Knitted geotextiles are textiles used in 25% of cases of textile application. Compared to the other two types, they have got a lesser demand but are gradually gaining traction due to their lightweight nature. This is a result of its easy handling and affordable transportation.

Fiber-based geotextiles

  • Natural fibers

One can get natural fibers from almost anywhere in the world; plants, animals, and mineral origins. They have specific properties that are capable of producing geotextiles. However, mineral fibers are not used to make geotextiles because they are brittle and have low flexibility.

The natural fibers mostly used to make geotextiles include; hemp, sisal, abaca, flax, jute, ramie, and coir.

Geotextiles made from natural fibers are biodegradable, so manufacturers mainly use them for temporary applications.

  • Synthetic fibers

As the name implies, synthetic fibers are fibers used to make a certain kind of geotextile called geosynthetics.

There are four polymeric families which make up the raw materials for geosynthetics. They include polyester, polyamide, polypropylene, and polyethylene.

What’s the Average Cost of Geotextile Fabric Per Yard?

You can easily find woven, non-woven, and knitted geotextile fabrics almost anywhere, and you can go for whichever depending on the application and preference.

Individuals who would like to install it in a smaller area, such as in their homes, can purchase the fabric in smaller quantities.

When choosing these fabrics, remember to look for essential features such as weight, installation process, durability, quality, etc.

However, average geotextile prices usually range from $50 to $ 200, with some selling at about least $600.

Geotextile Fabric Usage And Applications

Geotextile Fabric uses

Geotextile fabric is used in many areas such as agriculture, roadwork, riverbanks and coastlines, construction, etc. 

  • Civil engineering projects

Geotextiles are usually used in projects that involve soil improvement in unsuitable conditions, making it more manageable in construction.

These permeable fabrics are suitable for building infrastructures such as landfills, harbors, and many other civil projects.

  • Geotechnical applications

Geotechnical applications call for the use of geotextile fabric for various purposes, including filtration, drainage, separation of soil layers, reinforcement, and stabilization.

Geotechnical applications include road and railway embankments, earth dikes, and coastal protection structures.

  • Fences

As muddy water drains from construction sites into rivers and lakes, geotextile fabric barriers are frequently used in harbor works and along breakwaters to prevent sediment from washing downstream.

  • Infrastructure development

Using geotextile fabric as a replacement for secondary dirt roads, haul roads, road networks, and freeways in developing regions have proven to be an efficient and cost-effective solution.

  • Supporting structures

Compared to retaining walls made from more conventional building materials, geotextile fabric-constructed walls are more flexible in accommodating human settlements.

Geotextile Fabric Care And Maintenance Tips 

Geotextiles should be adequately taken care of to avoid damaging the surface. You should choose brushes suitable for the material and capable of carrying out different cleaning purposes.

  • While cleaning, avoid harsh chemicals and reduce pressure to avoid wear of the geotextile fabric. Also, Thermal treatment shouldn’t be carried out in excess. 
  • Depending on the type and nature of the geotextile fabric, you can clean it with or without water. Clean thoroughly and work the edges of the fabric with or without water.
  • While geotextiles can last for a long time, you should adequately maintain them to ensure durability. Additionally, these geotextiles are used as materials to build infrastructures, so it is important to put in effort and time to maintain them.
  • Choose the most suitable tool for cleaning your geotextile fabrics. A poor choice of tools can negatively affect the quality of the fabric, making it wear down quickly.

Leave a comment