The Evolution of Geosynthetics

by Robert M. Koerner, (Hon.M.ASCE), Director; Geosynthetic Research Institute, 33rd & Lancaster Walk, Rush Bldg-West Wing, Philadelphia, PA 19104,
Te-Yang Soong, Engineer; Geosynthetic Research Institute, 33rd & Lancaster Walk, Rush Bldg-West Wing, Philadelphia, PA 19104,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1997, Vol. 67, Issue 7, Pg. 62-64

Document Type: Feature article


Although the geosynthetics industry only began in the 1960s, it roots can be traced to the earliest humans. Soil stabilization, soil reinforcement, liquid drainage and leak proof barrier systems�among the reasons geosynthetics are widely used today�were all problems that even our most primitive ancestors attempted to overcome. Since the days of the Romans, the ways in which engineers have tried to solve their problems varied considerably, but few universal solutions came about. Now, with the evolution of geosynthetics from conceptual items into practical tools, many of the problems that have for decades hindered the engineering community are beginning to disappear. Geosynthetics initially appeared as alternative pond liners and filter fabrics. Today, they are a billion-dollar-a-year industry. While the North American market has been strong for years, the recent explosion of geosynthetic use in Europe and Asia indicates that the materials might become even more popular than they are now. One element of geosynthetics that makes them so popular is their versatility. In recent years geomembrane has been favored for containment of contaminated wastes because it offers permanent, leak-proof barrier�even underwater. Engineers are now beginning to seek other, similar uses for geomembrane, such as for floating potable-water containment bags. In another example, geopipe is now at the forefront of landfill remediation because it offers engineers the rare combination of flexibility and longevity. Not only that, but as the author points out, geosynthetics are still an infantile industry.

Subject Headings: Geosynthetics | Soil stabilization | Industries | Geomembranes | Waste containment | Vegetation | Ponds

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