An investigative study on physical sulfate attack and alkali-silica reaction test methods

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Lowe, Travis Evans

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This thesis is unique in that it investigated two completely different forms of concrete deterioration: physical sulfate attack and the alkali-silica reaction (ASR). Research was undertaken to better understand physical sulfate attack in order to provide much needed guidance on how to prevent durable this form of deterioration. A testing regime was designed to evaluate and analyze different concrete mixtures with varying water to cementitious material ratios (w/cm), cement types (Type I and V), and use of supplementary cementing materials (SCMs) in accelerated laboratory exposure and outdoor exposure testing. The accelerated laboratory testing evaluated the performance of concrete cylinder segments fully submerged in 30% (by mass of solution) sodium sulfate solution exposed to a temperature and humidity cycle that would promote cycles of alternative conversion between anhydrous sodium sulfate (thenardite) and decahydrate sodium sulfate (mirabilite). In the outdoor exposure site, two different sized concrete cylinders per mixture proportion were partially submerged in 5% (33,000 ppm) sodium sulfate solution and exposed to alternative wetting and drying conditions, along with, temperature fluctuations that would promote conversion between thenardite (Na2SO4) and mirabilite (Na2SO4∙10H2O).

With regard to ASR test methods, it has been shown with past research that it is not possible to evaluate “job mixtures” or determine alkali thresholds using ASTM C 1293 (Concrete Prism Test) with evaluating aggregates and concrete mixture proportions for the susceptibility of ASR when testing job mixtures. The most commonly cited issue with the concrete prism test is excessive leaching of alkalis during the course of the test, which may not be a major issue when using the standard, high-alkali concrete mixtures as per ASTM C 1293 but is clearly an issue when testing lower-alkali concrete mixtures. For low-alkali mixtures, alkali leaching can reduce the internal alkali content below the threshold that triggers expansion for a given aggregate. A comprehensive study was initiated that evaluated various modifications to ASTM C 1293, with the intention of developing a testing regime better suited to testing “job mixes” and/or low-alkali concrete mixtures.



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