• Mohd Yuhyi Mohd Tadza Faculty of Civil Engineering & Earth Resources, Universiti Malaysia Pahang, Malaysia
  • Mohd Fazli Farida Asras Faculty of Industrial Science & Technology, Universiti Malaysia Pahang, Malaysia
  • Muhammad Afiq Mohd Tadza Faculty of Industrial Science & Technology, Universiti Malaysia Pahang, Malaysia
  • Jamil Ismail Faculty of Industrial Science & Technology, Universiti Malaysia Pahang, Malaysia
  • Nurhidayah Mahazam Faculty of Civil Engineering & Earth Resources, Universiti Malaysia Pahang, Malaysia
  • Nurul Syafiqah Mohd Azmi Faculty of Civil Engineering & Earth Resources, Universiti Malaysia Pahang, Malaysia



Clay, microbes, suction, osmotic, cellulose, polyethylene glycol


Cellulose acetate semipermeable membranes and polyethylene glycol (PEG) solutions are commonly used to apply suction in soils using the osmotic technique. The structural integrity of the membrane is crucial to maintain a consistent suction value throughout a test. The membrane however, is vulnerable to microbial attack, which in turn could lead to intrusion of PEG into soil specimens. In this study, osmotic test was carried out on initially saturated Andrassy bentonite specimen. PEG 6000 and membrane with molecular weight cut-off (MWCO) value of 3500 was used to apply suction of 3.4 MPa. Soil specimen and PEG solution after the osmotic test were examined for the presence of any potential cellulose or acetate degrading microbes. Test results indicated that cellulose degrading fungi such as Paecilomyces L. and Trichoderma A. were observed in the PEG solutions. Addition of penicillin was found to be less effective in removing these microbes. However, 70% ethanol may be used to prevent cross contamination during handling of specimens. It is anticipated that eliminating these microbes is crucial to prevent intrusion of PEG in osmotic tests


Stotzky, G. 1986. Influence of Soil Mineral Colloids on Metabolic Processes, Growth, Adhesion, and Ecology of Microbes and Viruses, Interaction of Soil Minerals with Natural Organics and Microbes, Soil Science Society of America, 17, 305.

Chu, J., Ivanov, V., He, J., Naeimi, M., Li, B., and Stabnikov, V. 2011. Development of Microbial Technology in Singapore, Geo-Frontiers. 4070-4078.

Brockett, B. F. T., Prescott, C. E., and Grayston, S. J. 2012. Soil Moisture is the Major Factor Influencing Microbial Community Structure and Enzyme Activities Across Seven Biogeoclimatic Zones in Western Canada, Soil Biology and Biochemistry. 44: 9-12.

Barbour, S.L. 1998. Nineteenth Canadian Geotechnical Colloquium: The Soil-Water Characteristic Curve: A Historical Perspective. Canadian Geotechnical Journal. 35(5): 873–894

Delage, P. and Cui, Y. J. 2008. An Evaluation of the Osmotic Method of Controlling Suction. Geomechanics and Geoengineering: An International Journal. 3(1): 1-11.

Blatz, J.A., Cui, Y. J., and Oldecop, L. 2008. Vapour Equilibrium and Osmotic Technique for Suction Control. Geotechnical and Geological Engineering. 26(6): 661–673.

Fleureau, J. M., Kheirbek Saoud, S., Soemitro, R. & Taibi, S. 1993. Behavior of Clayey Soils on Drying–Wetting Paths. Can. Geotech. J. 30(2): 287–296.

Tripathy, S., M. Tadza, M.Y. and Thomas, H.R. 2014. Soil-Water Characteristic Curves of Clays. Canadian Geotechnical Journal. 51(8): 869-883.

Tripathy, S., Thomas, H., and Bag, R. 2015. Geoenvironmental Application of Bentonites in Underground Disposal of Nuclear Waste: Characterization and Laboratory Tests. J. Hazard. Toxic Radioact. Waste.

Kassiff, G. and Ben Shalom, A. 1971. Experimental Relationship Between Swell Pressure and Suction. Géotechnique. 21(3): 245–255.

Dineen, K. and Burland, J. B. 1995. A New Approach to Osmotically Controlled Oedometer Testing. Proc. 1st Int. Conf. on Unsaturated Soils, Paris. 2: 459–465.

Abbas, M.F., Elkady, T.Y, Al-Shamrani, M.A. 2015. Calibrations for Volume Change Measurements Using Osmotic Suction Control Technique, HBRC Journal. 3(3):1-8.

Woods, R.J. and Pikaev, A.K. 1994. Applied Radiation Chemistry: Radiation Processing. Canada: John Wiley & Sons.

Tripathy, S. and Rees, S. 2013. Suction of Some Polyethylene Glycols Commonly Used for Unsaturated Soil Testing. ASTM Geotechnical Testing Journal. 36(5): 768-780.

Williams, J. and Shaykewich, C.F. 1969. An Evaluation of Polyethylene Glycol (P.E.G.) 6000 and P.E.G. 20,000 in the Osmotic Control of Soil Water Matric Potential. Canadian Journal of Soil Science. 49(3): 397–401.

Tripathy, S., Tadza, M.Y.M., and Thomas, H.R. 2011. On the Intrusion of Polyethylene Glycol During Osmotic Tests. Géotechnique Letters. 1(3): 47–51.

Slatter, E. E., Jungnikel, C. A., Smith, D. W. & Allman, M. A. 2000. Investigation of Suction Generation in Apparatus Employing Osmotic Methods. In Unsaturated Soils for Asia: Proceedings of the 1st Asian Conference on Unsaturated Soils (UNSAT-ASIA 2000) Rahardjo H., Toll D. G. & Leong E. C.(eds). 297–302. Rotterdam: Balkema.

Monroy, R., Ridley, A., Dineen, K. & Zdrakovic, L. 2007. The Suitability of the Osmotic Technique for the Long Term Testing of Partly Saturated Soils. Geotechnical Testing Journal. 30(3): 220–226.

Cox, C. S. 1966. Bacterial Survival in Suspension in Polyethelene Glycol Solutions, Journal of General Microbiology. 45: 275-281

Chirife, J., Herszage, L., Joseph, A., Bozzini, J. P., Leardini, N., Kohn, E. S. 1983. In Vitro Antibacterial Activity of Concentrated Polyethylene Glycol 400 Solutions. Antimicrobial Agents for Chemotherapy. 24: 409-412.

Haines, J. R., and Alexander, M. 1975. Microbial Degradation of Polyethelene Glycol, American Society of Microbiology, Applied Microbiology. 29(5): 621-62

Kawai, F. 2002. Microbial Degradation of Polyethers, Appl. Microbiol. Biotechno. 58: 30-38.

Huang, Y. L., Li, Q. B., Deng, X., Lu, Y. H., Liao, X. K., Hong, M. Y., and Wang, Y. 2005. Aerobic and Anaerobic Biodegradation of Polyethylene Glycols using Sludge Microbes. Proc. Biochem. 40: 207–211.

Rode, L. J., Foster, J. W. and Schuhardt, V. T. 1947. Penicillin Production by Thermophilic Fungus. Journal of Bacteriology. 53(5): 565-566.

Lal, R. and Mishra, M. M. 1978. Cellulolytic Activity of Some Soil Fungi, Folia Microbiol. 23: 68-71.

Coughlan, M. P. 1991. Mechanisms of Cellulose Degradation by Fungi and Bacteria, Animal Feed Science and Technology. 32: 77-100.

Jadhav, A. R., Girde, A. V., More, S. M., More, S. B., and Khan, S. 2013. Cellulase Production by Utilizing Agricultural Wastes. Res. J. Agri. For. Sci. 1(7): 6-9.

Somerville, G. A., Said-Salim, B., Wickman, J. M., Raffel, S. J., Kreiswirth, B. N. and Musser, J. M. 2003. Correlation of Acetate Catabolism and Growth Yield of Staphylococcus Aureus: Implications for Host-Pathogen Interaction. Infect Immun. 71(8): 4724-4732

Cerato, A. B. and Lutenegger, A. J. 2000. Determination of Surface Area of Fine-Grained Soil by the Ethylene Glycol Monoethyl Ether (EGME) Method, ASTM Geotechnical Testing Journal. 25(3): 7.

Lavkulich, L.M. 1981. Methods Manual: Pedology Laboratory. Vancouver: Department of Soil Science, University of British Columbia.

Benson, H. J. 2001. Microbiological Applications, A Laboratory Manual in General Microbiology. McGraw-Hill Science.

Zborowski, M., Malchesky, P. S., Jan, T. and Hall, G. S. 1992. Quantitative Separation of Bacteria in Saline Solution using Lanthanide Er(II1) and a Magnetic Field, Journal of General Microbiology. 138: 63-68.

Delage, P., Howat, M., and Cui, Y.J. 1998. The Relationship Between Suction and Swelling Properties in A Heavily Compacted Unsaturated Clay. Engineering Geology. 50(1–2): 31–48.

Theng B.K.G., and Orchard, V.A. 1995. Interactions of Clays with Microorganisms and Bacterial Survival in Soil: A Physicochemical Perspective. CRC/Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, FL, USA.

SANCO, D.G. 2008. European Commission, Health & Consumer Protection Directorate-General. Review report for the active substance Trichoderma atroviride (formerly T. harzianum) T-11. Finalised in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health at its meeting on 11 July 2008 in view of the inclusion of Trichoderma atroviride (formerly T. harzianum) T-11 in Annex I of Directive 91/414/EEC. Document SANCO/1841/08 – rev. 3

SANCO, D.G. 2008. European Commission, Health & Consumer Protection Directorate-General. Review report for the active substance Paecilomyces lilacinus strain 251. Finalised in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health at its meeting on 22 January 2008 in view of the inclusion of Paecilomyces lilacinus strain 251 in Annex I of Directive 91/414/EEC. Document SANCO/3922/7.

Baird-Parker, A. C. 1962. The Occurrence and Enumeration, According to a New Classification of, Micrococci and Staphylococci in Bacon and on Human and Pig Skin. J. appl. Bact. 25 (3), 352-361

Reinthaler, F. F., Posch, J., Fiererl, G., Wüst, G., Haas, D., Ruckenbauer, D., Mascher, F. and Marth, E. 2003. Antibiotic of E. coli in sewage and sludge. Water Research. 37: 1685-1690.

Shockman, G. D., Daneo-Moore, L., Cornett, J. B. and Mychajlonkat, M. 1979. Does Penicillin Kill Bacteria?. Clin Infect Dis. 1(5): 787-796.

Moulder, J. W. 1993. Why is Chlamydia Sensitive to Penicillin in the Absence of Peptidoglycan?. Infectious Agents and Disease. Europe PubMed Central. 2(2): 87-99.

Lacey, R. W. 1975. Antibiotic Resistance Plasmids of Staphylococcus Aureus And Their Clinical Importance. Bacteriological Reviews, American Society of Microbiology. 39(1):1-32.

Wise, R. I.,4 Cranny, C. and Spink, W. W. 1956. Epidemiologic Studies on Antibiotic-Resistant Strains of Micrococcus Pyogenes. Am J Med. 20(2): 176-184

Peters, B. M., Ward, R. M., Rane, H. S., Lee, S. A. and Noverr, M. C. 2013. Efficacy of Ethanol Against Candida Albicans and Staphylococcus Aureus Polymicrobial Biofilms. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 57(1): 74-82.

Dombek, K. M. and Ingram, L. O. 1986. Effects of Ethanol on Escherichia Coli Plasma Membrane. Journal of Bacteriology. American Society for Microbiology. 157(1): 233-239

Kampf, G. and Hollingsworth, A. 2008. Comprehensive Bactericidal Activity of an Ethanol-Based Hand Gel in 15 Seconds, Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials, BioMed Central. 7(2).






Science and Engineering

How to Cite