Graphene oxide (GO) is the product of chemical exfoliation of graphite. Due to its good dispersibility in water, high aspect ratio and excellent mechanical properties, GO is a potential candidate for use as nanoreinforcements in cement-based materials. In this paper, GO was used to enhance the mechanical properties of ordinary Portland cement paste. The introduction of 0.05 wt% GO can increase the GO–cement composite compressive strength by 15–33% and the flexural strength by 41–59%, respectively. Scanning electron microscope imaging of the GO–cement composite shows the high crack tortuosity, indicating that the two-dimensional GO sheet may form a barrier to crack propagation. Consequently, the GO–cement composite shows a broader stress–strain curve within the post-peak zone, leading to a less sudden failure. The addition of GO also increases the surface area of the GO–cement composite. This is attributed to increasing the production of calcium silicate hydrate. The results obtained in this investigation suggest that GO has potential for being used as nano-reinforcements in cement-based composite materials.
The microstructural evolution of alkali-activated binders based on blast furnace slag, fly ash and their blends during the first six months of sealed curing is assessed. The nature of the main binding gels in these blends shows distinct characteristics with respect to binder composition. It is evident that the incorporation of fly ash as an additional source of alumina and silica, but not calcium, in activated slag binders affects the mechanism and rate of formation of the main binding gels. The rate of formation of the main binding gel phases depends strongly on fly ash content. Pastes based solely on silicate-activated slag show a structure dominated by a C–A–S–H type gel, while silicate-activated fly ash are dominated by N–A–S–H ‘geopolymer’ gel. Blended slag-fly ash binders can demonstrate the formation of co-existing C–A–S–H and geopolymer gels, which are clearly distinguishable at earlier age when the binder contains no more than 75 wt.% fly ash. The separation in chemistry between different regions of the gel becomes less distinct at longer age. With a slower overall reaction rate, a 1:1 slag:fly ash system shares more microstructural features with a slag-based binder than a fly ash-based binder, indicating the strong influence of calcium on the gel chemistry, particularly with regard to the bound water environments within the gel. However, in systems with similar or lower slag content, a hybrid type gel described as N–(C)–A–S–H is also identified, as part of the Ca released by slag dissolution is incorporated into the N–A–S–H type gel resulting from fly ash activation. Fly ash-based binders exhibit a slower reaction compared to activated-slag pastes, but extended times of curing promote the formation of more cross-linked binding products and a denser microstructure. This mechanism is slower for samples with lower slag content, emphasizing the correct selection of binder proportions in promoting a well-densified, durable solid microstructure.
This study reports the synthesis and characterization of geopolymer foam concrete (GFC). A Class F fly ash with partial slag substitution was used for GFC synthesis by mechanical mixing of preformed foam. The GFCs exhibited 28 d compressive strengths ranging from 3 to 48 MPa with demolded densities from 720 to 1600 kg/m (105 °C oven-dried densities from 585 to 1370 kg/m ), with the different densities achieved through alteration of the foam content. The thermal conductivity of GFCs was in the range 0.15–0.48 W/m K, showing better thermal insulation properties than normal Portland cement foam concrete at the same density and/or at the same strength. The GFC derived from alkali activation of fly ash as a sole precursor showed excellent strength retention after heating to temperatures from 100 to 800 °C, and the post-cooling compressive strength increased by as much as 100% after exposure at 800 °C due to densification and phase transformations. Partial substitution of slag for fly ash increased the strength of GFC at room temperature, but led to notable shrinkage and strength loss at high temperature. Thin GFC panels (20–25 mm) exhibited acoustic absorption coefficients of 0.7–1.0 at 40–150 Hz, and 0.1–0.3 at 800–1600 Hz.
Crack formation is a commonly observed phenomenon in concrete structures. Although micro crack formation hardly affects structural properties of constructions, increased permeability due to micro crack networking may substantially reduce the durability of concrete structures due to risk of ingress of aggressive substances particularly in moist environments. In order to increase the often observed autogenous crack-healing potential of concrete, specific healing agents can be incorporated in the concrete matrix. The aim of this study was to quantify the crack-healing potential of a specific and novel two-component bio-chemical self-healing agent embedded in porous expanded clay particles, which act as reservoir particles and replace part of regular concrete aggregates. Upon crack formation the two-component bio-chemical agent consisting of bacterial spores and calcium lactate are released from the particle by crack ingress water. Subsequent bacterially mediated calcium carbonate formation results in physical closure of micro cracks. Experimental results showed crack-healing of up to 0.46 mm-wide cracks in bacterial concrete but only up to 0.18 mm-wide cracks in control specimens after 100 days submersion in water. That the observed doubling of crack-healing potential was indeed due to metabolic activity of bacteria was supported by oxygen profile measurements which revealed O consumption by bacteria-based but not by control specimens. We therefore conclude that this novel bio-chemical self-healing agent shows potential for particularly increasing durability aspects of concrete constructions in wet environments.
This is a summary paper on the work being done at the Center for Advanced Cement-Based Materials at Northwestern University on the modification of cement-based materials with nanoparticles, specifically nanoclays, calcium carbonate nanoparticles, and nanosilica. The rheological properties of clay-modified cement-based materials are investigated to understand the influence of nanoclays on thixotropy. The influence of the method of dispersion of calcium carbonate nanoparticles on rate of hydration, setting, and compressive strength are evaluated. And an in-depth study on the mechanisms underlying the influence of nanosilica on the compressive strength gain of fly ash–cement systems is discussed. The motivation behind these studies is that with proper processing techniques and fundamental understanding of the mechanisms underlying the effect of the nanoparticles, they can be used to enhance the fresh-state and hardened properties of cement-based materials for various applications. Nanoclays can increase the green strength of self-consolidating concrete for reduced formwork pressure and slipform paving. Calcium carbonate nanoparticles and nanosilica can offset the negative effects of fly ash on early-age properties to facilitate the development of a more environmentally friendly, high-volume fly ash concrete.
A new type of geopolymer composite was synthesized from two industrial wastes, red mud (RM) and rice husk ash (RHA), at varying mixing ratios of raw materials and the resulting products characterized by mechanical compression testing, X-ray diffraction, and scanning electron microscopy to assess their mechanical properties, microstructure, and geopolymerization reactions. Prolonged curing significantly increases the compressive strength and Young’s modulus, but reduces the ductility. Higher RHA/RM ratios generally lead to higher strength, stiffness, and ductility, but excessive RHA may cause the opposite effect. The compressive strength ranges from 3.2 to 20.5 MPa for the synthesized geopolymers with nominal Si/Al ratios of 1.68–3.35. Microstructural and compositional analyses showed that the final products are mainly composed of amorphous geopolymer binder with both inherited and neoformed crystalline phases as fillers, rendering the composites very complex composition and highly variable mechanical properties. Uncertainties in the composition, microstructure, the extent of RHA dissolution, and side reactions may be potential barriers for the practical application of the RM–RHA based geopolymers as a construction material.
The concrete industry is known to leave an enormous environmental footprint on Planet Earth. First, there are the sheer volumes of material needed to produce the billions of tons of concrete worldwide each year. Then there are the CO emissions caused during the production of Portland cement. Together with the energy requirements, water consumption and generation of construction and demolition waste, these factors contribute to the general appearance that concrete is not particularly environmentally friendly or compatible with the demands of sustainable development. This paper summarizes recent developments to improve the situation. Foremost is the increasing use of cementitious materials that can serve as partial substitutes for Portland cement, in particular those materials that are by-products of industrial processes, such as fly ash and ground granulated blast furnace slag. But also the substitution of various recycled materials for aggregate has made significant progress worldwide, thereby reducing the need to quarry virgin aggregates. The most important ones among these are recycled concrete aggregate, post-consumer glass, scrap tires, plastics, and by-products of the paper and other industries.
This paper addresses the development of an eco-friendly Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) with efficient cement and mineral admixtures uses are investigated. The modified Andreasen & Andersen particle packing model is utilized to achieve a densely compacted cementitious matrix. Fly ash (FA), ground granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBS) and limestone powder (LP) are used to replace cement, and their effects on the properties of the designed UHPC are analyzed. The results show that the influence of FA, GGBS or LP on the early hydration kinetics of the UHPC is very similar during the initial five days, while the hydration rate of the blends with GGBS is mostly accelerated afterwards. Moreover, the mechanical properties of the mixture with GGBS are superior, compared to that with FA or LP at both 28 and 91 days. Due to the very low water amount and relatively large superplasticizer dosage in UHPC, the pozzolanic reaction of FA is significantly retarded. Additionally, the calculations of the embedded CO emission demonstrate that the cement and mineral admixtures are efficiently used in the developed UHPC, which reduce its environmental impact compared to other UHPCs found in the literature.
With the current focus on sustainability, it is necessary to evaluate concrete’s environmental impact properly, especially when developing new ‘green’ concrete types. Therefore, we investigated the available literature on every step in the LCA of concrete. The adopted functional unit for which the environmental impact is calculated, influences the outcome significantly. When comparing different concrete compositions, this unit should incorporate differences in strength, durability and service life. Hence, a cradle-to-grave or modified cradle-to-gate approach is advised as system boundary. When using industrial by-products as cement replacing material in ‘green’ concrete, an economical allocation of impacts is recommended. Inventory data on energy use, CO , PM , SO and NO emissions were collected and assigned to the impact categories of the problem oriented CML 2002 and the damage oriented Eco-indicator 99 impact method. Compared to Portland cement, the impact of blast-furnace slag and fly ash is about an order of a magnitude lower.
Enhanced matrix packing density and tailored fiber-to-matrix interface bond properties have led to the recent development of ultra-high performance fiber reinforced concrete (UHP-FRC) with improved material tensile performance in terms of strength, ductility and energy absorption capacity. The objective of this research is to experimentally investigate and analyze the uniaxial tensile behavior of the new material. The paper reviews and categorizes a variety of tensile test setups used by other researchers and presents a revised tensile set up tailored to obtain reliable results with minimal preparation effort. The experimental investigation considers three types of steel fibers, each in three different volume fractions. Elastic, strain hardening and softening tensile parameters, such as first cracking stress and strain, elastic and strain hardening modulus, composite strength and energy dissipation capacity, of the UHP-FRCs are characterized, analyzed and linked to the crack pattern observed by microscopic analysis. Models are proposed for representing the tensile stress–strain response of the material.
The effects of blending fibers on the tensile behavior of Ultra High Performance Hybrid Fiber Reinforced Concrete (UHP-HFRC) are investigated. Four types of steel macro-fibers (of differing length or geometry) and one type of steel micro-fiber are considered. In producing the specimens, the volume content of the macro-fiber was held at 1.0%, whereas the volume content of the micro-fiber varied from 0.0% to 1.5%. The overall shape of tensile stress–strain curves of UHP-HFRC is primarily dependent upon the type of macro-fiber, although the addition of micro-fibers favorably affects the strain hardening and multiple cracking behaviors. UHP-HFRC produced from macro-fibers with twisted geometry provides the best performance with respect to post cracking strength, strain capacity and multiple micro-cracking behavior, whereas UHP-HFRC produced with long, smooth macro-fibers exhibits the worst performance.
Electrically conductive cementitious composites carrying carbon fibers and carbon nanotubes were developed and their ability to sense an applied compressive load through a measureable change in resistivity was investigated. Two types of cement-based sensors, one with carbon fibers alone and the other carrying a hybrid of both fibers and nanotubes, were considered. Direct comparisons were also made with traditional strain gauges mounted on the sensor specimens. Sensing experiments indicate that under cyclic loading, the changes in resistivity mimic both the changes in the applied load and the measured material strain with high fidelity for both sensor types. The response, however, is nonlinear and rate dependent. At an arbitrary loading rate, the hybrid sensor, containing a combination carbon fibers and nanotubes, produced the best results with better repeatability.
The self sensing properties of cementitious composites reinforced with well dispersed carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers were investigated. The electrical resistance of cementitious nanocomposites with / = 0.3 reinforced with well dispersed carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and nanofibers (CNFs) at an amount of 0.1 wt% and 0.3 wt% of cement was experimentally determined and compared with resistivity results of nanocomposites fabricated with “as received” nanoscale fibers at the same loading. Results indicate that conductivity measurements, besides being a valuable tool in evaluating the smart properties of the nanocomposites, may provide a good correlation between the resistivity values measured and the degree of dispersion of the material in the matrix. The addition of CNTs and CNFs at different loadings was proven to induce a decrease in electrical resistance, with the nanocomposites containing 0.1 wt% CNTs yielding better electrical properties. Furthermore, conductivity measurements under cyclic compressive loading provided an insight in the piezoresistive properties of selected nanocomposites. Results confirm that nanocomposites, reinforced with 0.1 wt% CNTs and CNFs, exhibited an increased change in resistivity, which is indicative of the amplified sensitivity of the material in strain sensing.
This paper reports the composition and properties of highly flowable self-consolidating concrete (SCC) mixtures made of high proportions of cement replacement materials such as fly ash and pulverized limestone instead of high dosage of a plasticizing agent or viscosity-modifying chemical admixtures. Self-consolidating concrete mixtures are being increasingly used for the construction of highly reinforced complex concrete elements and for massive concrete structures such as dams and thick foundation. In this study, by varying the proportion of portland cement (OPC), Class F-fly ash (F), and limestone powder (L), SCC mixtures with different strength values were produced, and the properties of both fresh and hardened concrete were determined. For a comprehensive analysis and quantification of emissions and global warming potential (GWP) from concrete production, life-cycle assessment (LCA) was employed. We find that high volume, up to 55% by weight replacement of OPC with F, or F and L produces highly workable concrete that has high 28-day and 365-day strength, and extremely high to very high resistance to chloride penetration along with low GWP for concrete production.
A comprehensive investigation into the mechanical properties of ultra-high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete (UHPFRC), considering various influential factors, is imperative in order to obtain fundamental information for its practical utilization. Therefore, this paper reviewed the early-age strength (or setting) development and mechanical properties of hardened UHPFRC. In connection with the latter, the effects of the curing conditions, coarse aggregate, mineral admixtures, fiber properties, specimen size, and strain-rate on the mechanical performance of UHPFRC were specifically investigated. It was obvious that (1) heat treatment accelerates the hydration process, leading to higher strength; (2) a portion of the silica fume can be replaced by fly ash, slag, and rice husk ash in mechanical perspective; (3) the use of deformed (hooked and twisted) or long straight steel fibers improves the mechanical properties at a static rate; and (4) high rate loading provides a noticeable increase in the mechanical properties. Alternatively, there are some disagreements between the results from various ‘size effect’ tests and the effectiveness of using twisted steel fibers at static and high rate loadings. Further research to reduce the production cost of UHPFRC is also addressed in an attempt to make its widespread use more practical.
An appropriate dispersion of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) is a prerequisite for their use in improving the mechanical properties of cement-based composites. In this study two types of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) having different morphologies were investigated. To obtain a uniform distribution of CNTs in the cement matrix, the effect of sonication on the deagglomeration of CNTs in combination with anionic and nonionic surfactants in varying concentrations was quantitatively investigated when preparing aqueous dispersions of CNTs for the subsequent use in cement paste. The relationships between the quality of CNT-dispersion on the one hand and the sonication time and surfactant concentration on the other were determined using UV–vis spectroscopy. After dispersion, nitrogen-doped CNTs were found mostly as individual, broken CNTs. In contrast, after the treatment of the mixture of single-, double-, and multi-walled CNTs, a net-like distribution was observed where destruction of the CNTs due to sonication could not be distinguished. Modification of the cement pastes with dispersions of CNTs led to a pronounced increase, up to 40%, in compressive strength and, in some cases, to a moderate increase in tensile strength under high strain-rate loading. However, no significant improvement in strength was observed for quasi-static loading. Microscopic examination revealed that the bridging of the C–S–H phases differed depending on the type of CNT. This explained, at least partly, the observed effects of CNT-addition on the mechanical properties of hardened cement pastes.
Geopolymers prepared from a class C fly ash (CFA) and a mixed alkali activator of sodium hydroxide and sodium silicate solution were investigated. A high compressive strength was obtained when the modulus of the activator viz., molar ratio of SiO /Na O was 1.5, and the proper content of this activator as evaluated by the mass proportion of Na O to CFA was 10%. The compressive strength of these samples was 63.4 MPa when they were cured at 75 °C for 8 h followed by curing at 23 °C for 28 d. In FTIR spectroscopy, the main peaks at 1036 and 1400 cm have been attributed to asymmetric stretching of Al–O/Si–O bonds, while those at 747 cm are due to the Si–O–Si/Si–O–Al bending band. The main geopolymeric gel and calcium silicate hydrate (C–S–H) gel co-exist and bond some remaining unreacted CFA spheres as observed in XRD and SEM–EXDA. The presence of gismondine (zeolite) was also observed in the XRD pattern.
Most previous works on fly ash based geopolymer concrete focused on concretes subjected to heat curing. Development of geopolymer concrete that can set and harden at normal temperature will widen its application beyond precast concrete. This paper has focused on a study of fly ash based geopolymer concrete suitable for ambient curing condition. A small proportion of ordinary Portland cement (OPC) was added with low calcium fly ash to accelerate the curing of geopolymer concrete instead of using elevated heat. Samples were cured in room environment (about 23 °C and RH 65 ± 10%) until tested. Inclusion of OPC as little as 5% of total binder reduced the setting time to acceptable ranges and caused slight decrease of workability. The early-age compressive strength improved significantly with higher strength at the age of 28 days. Geopolymer microstructure showed considerable portion of calcium-rich aluminosilicate gel resulting from the addition of OPC.
Though foam concrete was initially envisaged as a void filling and insulation material, there have been renewed interest in its structural characteristics in view of its lighter weight, savings in material and potential for large scale utilization of wastes like fly ash. The focus of this paper is to classify literature on foam concrete in terms of constituent materials (foaming agent, cement and other fillers used), mix proportioning, production methods, fresh and hardened properties of foam concrete. Based on the review, the following research needs have been identified: (i) developing affordable foaming agent and foam generator, (ii) investigation on compatibility between foaming agent and chemical admixtures, use of lightweight coarse aggregate and reinforcement including fibers, (iii) durability studies, and (iv) factors influencing foam concrete production viz., mixing, transporting and pumping.
The quest for sustainability in construction material usage has made the use of more renewable resources in the construction industry a necessity. Plant-based natural fibres are low cost renewable materials which can be found in abundant supply in many countries. This paper presents a summary of research progress on plant-based natural fibre reinforced cement-based composites. Fibre types, fibre characteristics and their effects on the properties of cement-based materials are reviewed. Factors affecting the fresh and hardened properties of cement-based composites reinforced with plant-based natural fibre are discussed. Measures to enhance the durability properties of cement-based composites containing plant-based natural fibres are appraised. Significant part of the paper is then focused on future trends such as the use of plant-based natural fibres as internal curing agents and durability enhancement materials in cement-based composites. Finally, applications and recommendations for future work are presented.