The microstructure of soils (the arrangement of pores and voids, aggregation and surface characteristics of particles) is substantially modified by freezing. Soils so modified differ, in a number of important properties, from soils not previously frozen. Furthermore, each time a soil is frozen there is a redistribution of particles, moisture and solutes. Corrosion of buried pipes is known to be related to the ground conditions. Accordingly the particular nature of frozen ground needs consideration in this respect.
Studies of microstructure of samples of freezing, frozen and unfrozen soils, many obtained from a full-scale experimental study of the effects of freezing on a buried pipeline, have provided an explanation for measured changes in bulk geotechnical properties of the materials. The microstructure viewed by optical microscopy, reveals the soil structure as having a complex and striking dependence on freezing history. Scanning electron microscopy shows further details in clay rich soils.
Freezing at temperatures occurring in nature normally does not convert all the soil water to ice. The effects of particle surface forces is to reduce the freezing point of the water nearest a mineral surface. The distribution of solutes is radically altered, with pockets of high concentration interconnected by a liquid phase of varying concentration.
A variety of other effects, relating to chemical and mechanical properties of soils subjected to freezing, have been demonstrated or can be postulated. Some of these are important in corrosion phenomena. The stresses that have been shown to occur in a pipe as a result of frost heave in the freezing soil, will also tend to increase the possibility of stress corrosion cracking.