Effect of Portland cement concrete characteristics and constituents on thermal expansion
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The coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) is one of the major factors responsible for distresses in concrete pavements and structures. Continuously reinforced concrete pavements (CRCPs) in particular are highly susceptible to distresses caused by high CTE in concrete. CRCP is a popular choice across the U.S. and around the world for its long service life and minimal maintenance requirements. CRCP has been built in more than 35 states in the U.S., including Texas. In order to prevent CRCP distresses, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has limited the CTE of CRCP concrete to a maximum of 5.5 x10-6 strain/oF (9.9 x10-6 strain/oC). Coarse aggregate sources that produce concrete with CTE higher than the allowable limit are no longer accepted in the TxDOT CRCP projects. Moreover, CTE is an important input in the Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide (MEPDG). Small deviations in input CTE can affect the pavement thickness significantly in MEPDG designs. Therefore, accurate determination of concrete CTE is important, as it allows for enhanced concrete structure and pavement design as well as accurate screening of CRCP coarse aggregates. Moreover, optimizing the CTE of concrete according to a structure’s needs can reduce that structure’s cracking potential. This will result in significant savings in repair and rehabilitation costs and will improve the durability and longevity of concrete structures. This study found that the CTEs determined from saturated concrete samples were affected by the internal water pressure. As a result, the TxDOT method yielded higher values than did the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) method. To further investigate the effect of internal water pressure, an analytical model was developed based on the poroelastic phenomenon of concrete. According to the model, porosity, permeability, and the rate of temperature change are the major factors that influence the internal water pressure development. Increasing the permeability of concrete can reduce the internal water pressure development and can thus improve the consistency of measured CTE values. Preconditioning concrete samples by subjecting them to several heating and cooling cycles prior to CTE testing and reducing the rate of temperature change improved the consistency of the CTE test results. Concrete CTE can be reduced by blending low-CTE aggregates with high-CTE aggregates and reducing the cement paste volume. Based on these findings, a concrete CTE optimization technique was developed that provides guidelines for the selection of concrete constituents to achieve target concrete CTE. A concrete proportioning technique was also developed to meet the need for CTE optimization. This concrete proportioning technique can use aggregate from any sources, irrespective of gradation, shape, and texture. The proposed technique has the potential to reduce the cement requirement without sacrificing performance and provides guidelines for multiple coarse and fine aggregate blends.