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Microstructural, Mechanical, and Durability Related Similarities in Concretes Based on OPC and Alkali-Activated Slag Binders

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Alkali-activated slag concretes are being extensively researched because of its potential sustainability-related benefits. For such concretes to be implemented in large scale concrete applications such as infrastructural and building elements,

Alkali-activated slag concretes are being extensively researched because of its potential sustainability-related benefits. For such concretes to be implemented in large scale concrete applications such as infrastructural and building elements, it is essential to understand its early and long-term performance characteristics vis-à-vis conventional ordinary portland cement (OPC) based concretes. This paper presents a comprehensive study of the property and performance features including early-age isothermal calorimetric response, compressive strength development with time, microstructural features such as the pore volume and representative pore size, and accelerated chloride transport resistance of OPC and alkali-activated binder systems. Slag mixtures activated using sodium silicate solution (SiO[subscript 2]-to-Na[subscript 2]O ratio or M[subscript s] of 1–2) to provide a total alkalinity of 0.05 (Na[subscript 2]O-to-binder ratio) are compared with OPC mixtures with and without partial cement replacement with Class F fly ash (20 % by mass) or silica fume (6 % by mass). Major similarities are noted between these binder systems for: (1) calorimetric response with respect to the presence of features even though the locations and peaks vary based on M[subscript s], (2) compressive strength and its development, (3) total porosity and pore size, and (4) rapid chloride permeability and non-steady state migration coefficients. Moreover, electrical impedance based circuit models are used to bring out the microstructural features (resistance of the connected pores, and capacitances of the solid phase and pore-solid interface) that are similar in conventional OPC and alkali-activated slag concretes. This study thus demonstrates that performance-equivalent alkali-activated slag systems that are more sustainable from energy and environmental standpoints can be proportioned.

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  • 2014-12-01

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Observations on the rheological response of alkali activated fly ash suspensions: the role of activator type and concentration

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This paper reports the influence of activator type and concentration on the rheological properties of alkali-activated fly ash suspensions. A thorough investigation of the rheological influences (yield stress and plastic

This paper reports the influence of activator type and concentration on the rheological properties of alkali-activated fly ash suspensions. A thorough investigation of the rheological influences (yield stress and plastic viscosity) of several activator parameters, including: (i) the cation type and concentration of alkali hydroxide and (ii) the alkali-to-binder ratio (n) and silica modulus (M[subscript s]), and (iii) the volume of the activation solution, on the suspension rheology is presented. The results indicate a strong dependence on the cation and its concentration in the activation solution. The viscosity of the activation solution and the volumetric solution-to-powder ratio are shown to most strongly influence the plastic viscosity of the suspension. The suspension yield stress is predominantly influenced by the changes in fly ash particle surface charge and the ionic species in the activator. A shift from non-Newtonian to Newtonian flow behavior is noted in the case of silicate-based suspensions for M[subscript s] ≤ 1.5. This behavior, which is not observed at higher M[subscript S] values, or when the fly ash is dispersed in hydroxide solutions or pure water, is hypothesized to be caused by colloidal siliceous species present in this system, or surface charge effects on the fly ash particles. Comparisons of the rheological response of alkali-activated suspensions to that of portland cement-water suspensions are also reported.

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Date Created
  • 2014-11-01

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Early age characterization and microstructural features of sustainable binder systems for concrete

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Concrete is the most widely used infrastructure material worldwide. Production of portland cement, the main binding component in concrete, has been shown to require significant energy and account for approximately

Concrete is the most widely used infrastructure material worldwide. Production of portland cement, the main binding component in concrete, has been shown to require significant energy and account for approximately 5-7% of global carbon dioxide production. The expected continued increased use of concrete over the coming decades indicates this is an ideal time to implement sustainable binder technologies. The current work aims to explore enhanced sustainability concretes, primarily in the context of limestone and flow. Aspects such as hydration kinetics, hydration product formation and pore structure add to the understanding of the strength development and potential durability characteristics of these binder systems. Two main strategies for enhancing this sustainability are explored in this work: (i) the use of high volume limestone in combination with other alternative cementitious materials to decrease the portland cement quantity in concrete and (ii) the use of geopolymers as the binder phase in concrete. The first phase of the work investigates the use of fine limestone as cement replacement from the perspective of hydration, strength development, and pore structure. The nature of the potential synergistic benefit of limestone and alumina will be explored. The second phase will focus on the rheological characterization of these materials in the fresh state, as well as a more general investigation of the rheological characterization of suspensions. The results of this work indicate several key ideas. (i) There is a potential synergistic benefit for strength, hydration, and pore structure by using alumina and in portland limestone cements, (ii) the limestone in these systems is shown to react to some extent, and fine limestone is shown to accelerate hydration, (iii) rheological characteristics of cementitious suspensions are complex, and strongly dependent on several key parameters including: the solid loading, interparticle forces, surface area of the particles present, particle size distribution of the particles, and rheological nature of the media in which the particles are suspended, and (iv) stress plateau method is proposed for the determination of rheological properties of concentrated suspensions, as it more accurately predicts apparent yield stress and is shown to correlate well with other viscoelastic properties of the suspensions.

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  • 2014

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Multiscale engineering response of alkali activated aluminosilicate binders

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Sustainable materials and methods have achieved a pivotal role in the research plethora of the new age due to global warming. Cement production is responsible in contributing to 5% of

Sustainable materials and methods have achieved a pivotal role in the research plethora of the new age due to global warming. Cement production is responsible in contributing to 5% of global CO2 emissions. Complete replacement of cement by alkaline activation of aluminosilicate waste materials such as slag and fly ash is a major advancement towards reducing the adverse impacts of cement production. Comprehensive research has been done, to understand the optimized composition and hydration products. The focus of this dissertation is to understand the multiscale behavior ranging from early age properties, fundamental material structure, fracture and crack resistance properties, durability responses and alternative activation methods to existing process.

The utilization of these materials has relied primarily on the dual benefits of reduced presence in landfills and cost. These have also proven to yield a higher service life as opposed to conventional ordinary portland cement (OPC) concrete due to an enhanced microstructure. The use of such materials however has not been readily acceptable due to detrimental early age behavior. The influence of design factors is studied to understand the reaction mechanism. Silicon polymerization at the molecular level is studied to understand the aluminosilicate interactions which are responsible for prevention of any leaching of ions. A comparative study between fly ash and slag binders is carried out to evaluate the stable states of sodium, aluminum and silicon in both these binders, since the likelihood of the sodium ions leaching out is high.

Compressive and flexural strength have been reported in previous literature, but the impact of crack resistance was unevaluated from an approach of characterizing the fracture process zone. Alternative routes of activation are explored with an intent to reduce the high alkalinity by use of neutral salts such as sodium sulfate. High volume OPC replacement by both class C and F fly ash is performed to evaluate the differences in hydration phase formation responsible for its pore refinement and strength. Spectroscopic studies have also allowed to study the fundamental material structure. Durability studies are also performed on these samples to understand the probability external sulfate attacks as opposed to OPC mixes.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Understanding the influence of cation and activator type/chemistry on the reaction kinetics and mechanical strength of liquid and powder silicate activated slag

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The increased emphasis on the detrimental effects of the production of construction materials such as ordinary portland cement (OPC) have driven studies of the alkali activation of aluminosilicate materials as

The increased emphasis on the detrimental effects of the production of construction materials such as ordinary portland cement (OPC) have driven studies of the alkali activation of aluminosilicate materials as binder systems derived from industrial byproducts. They have been extensively studied due to the advantages they offer in terms of enhanced material properties, while increasing sustainability by the reuse of industrial waste and reducing the adverse impacts of OPC production. Ground granulated blast furnace slag is one of the commonly used materials for their content of calcium and silica species. Alkaline activators such as silicates, aluminates etc. are generally used. These materials undergo dissolution, polymerization with the alkali, condensation on particle surfaces and solidification under the influence of alkaline activators. Exhaustive studies exploring the effects of sodium silicate as an activator however there is a significant lack of work on exploring the effect of the cation and the effect of liquid and powder activators. The focus of this thesis is hence segmented into two topics: (i) influence of liquid Na and K silicate activators to explore the effect of silicate and hydroxide addition and (ii) influence of powder Na and K Silicate activators to explore the effect of cation, concentration and silicates. Isothermal calorimetric studies have been performed to evaluate the early hydration process, and to understand the reaction kinetics of the liquid and powder alkali activated systems. The reaction kinetics had an impact on the early age behavior of these binders which can be explained by the compressive strength results. It was noticed that the concentration and silica modulus of the activator had a greater influence than the cation over the compressive strength. Quantification of the hydration products resultant from these systems was performed via thermo gravimetric analysis (TGA). The difference in the reaction products formed with varying cation and silicate addition in these alkali activated systems is brought out. Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy was used to investigate the degree of polymerization achieved in these systems. This is indicative of silica and alumina bonds in the system. Differences in the behavior of the cation are attributable to size of the hydration sphere and polarizing effect of the cation which are summarized at the end of the study.

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Date Created
  • 2013