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Vol.26 No.4 CHEN Bing et al: Performance Investigation of Square Concrete-filled St
Performance Investigation of Square
Concrete-filled Steel Tube Columns
CHEN Bing, LIU Xiao, LI Siping
(Department of Civil Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200290, China)
Abstract: The behaviour of square concrete-filled steel tube columns under concentrical loading was
studied. More than one hundred specimens were tested to investigate the effects of thickness of steel tube on
the load carrying capacity of the concrete-filled tubular columns (CFTs). The effect of the grade of concrete
and content of expansive agent were also investigated. The effect of these parameters on the confinement of the
concrete core was studied as well. From the experimental study it was found that for both CFTs with different
strength grade concrete core, the ultimate load carrying capacity increases with the increase in percentage of
expansive agent up to 20% but it again decreases at 25% of expansive agent content. It was also shown that the
failure mode of CFTs depends on the strength grade of concrete core.
Key words: concrete filled steel tubes; concrete; columns; ultimate capacity; expansive agent
©Wuhan University of Technology and SpringerVerlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011
(Received: May 8, 2010; Accepted: Aug. 17, 2010)
CHEN Bing(陈兵):Asso. Prof.;Ph D; E-mail: hntchen@sjtu.edu.cn
Funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China
(50978162) and the Key Laboratory of Advanced Civil Engineering Materials
(Tongji University), Ministry of Education(K201002)
DOI 10.1007/s11595-011-0302-5
1 Introduction
The use of concrete-filled steel tube columns
(CFTs) in modern structures, such as high-rise
building, bridges, warehouses, platforms of offshore,
etc, has become popular in recent years as it provide
several advantages over reinforced concrete or steel
columns
[1-6]
. This is mainly due to the combination of
the advantages of steel and concrete. The former has
high specific strength, and is easy to construct while the
latter has large damping capacity and is economical.
In addition to these advantages, the steel tubes enclose
concrete cores, which provides confinement to the
concrete. Due to the discrepancy of Poission’s ratios
between steel and concrete, the volume increase of
the concrete core is confined by the exterior steel
tube. Consequently, both strength and ductility of the
concrete are enhanced. On the other hand, the local
buckling of the steel tube is prevented by the filled
concrete. However, concrete confinement depends
on many factors such as the concrete strength, the
thickness of the steel tube, the yield stress of the steel
tube, the column diameter and the interface between
concrete and steel tube, etc.
Many research projects have been conducted
since the 1960s to investigate the behaviors of CFTs.
Fulong
[7]
, Schneider
[8]
, Giakoumelis and Lam
[9]
, and
Huang et al
[10]
investigate the behavior of CFT beam
columns with ordinary strength materials. Saito et al
[11]

extensively investigated the behavior of both circular
and square CFT beam columns with steel tubes of 490
and 570 MPa and concrete of 27-63 MPa. Young and
Ellobody investigated the behavior of CFTs with high
strength materials including high strength concrete and
cold-formed high strength stainless steel tubes. These
studies indicate that CFTs are expected to possess high
ductility and high load bearing capacity because the
steel tube confines the concrete core and the concrete
core restrains local buckling of the steel tube. However,
the synergistic interaction of steel tube and concrete
core in CFTs using different expansive concrete has
not been investigated thoroughly, especially using high
strength expansive concrete.
In recent years, much attention has been paid
to the behavior of square CFTs because of its simple
structure nodes, stability, and much large inertia
moment. Fujimoto et al
[13]
investigated an extensive set
of square CFTs subjected to compression and bending.
Test results suggested that the strength of the CFTs was
significantly affected by the B/t ratio and axial load
level. A series of tests was conducted on square and
rectangular hollow sections using different concrete
strength by Young and Ellobody
[12]
. However, there are
scare research on the effects of properties of concrete
core and strength of steel tube on the behavior on the
Journal of Wuhan University of Technology-Mater. Sci. Ed. Aug. 2011
731
square CFTs under axial load. In this paper, the effects
of concrete core strength, thickness of steel tube and
steel tube strength on the mechanical properties of
square CFTs were investigated.
2 Experimental
2.1 Materials
The cement used was ordinary Portland cement.
Fly ash with high f-CaO content from Shanghai
Wujing Power Plant was selected for this study. Silica
fume from Elken was used for making high strength
concrete. The chemical composition of the cementitious
materials used is given in Table 1. The coarse aggregate
was crushed limestone with a maximum size of 16
mm. The fine aggregate was river sand with a fineness
modulus of 2.6. A ZX-type expansive agent from
Suzhou in China was used, and its chemical analysis
and physical properties are presented in Table 2.
In this study, concretes with design strengths
of 20 and 50 MPa were produced using materials
provided. Mix design of both grades was carried out in
accordance to the Chinese standards. The mix designs
are shown in Table 3.
Four kinds of steel tubes with square hollow
sections were used in the study. The dimension is
120 mm×120 mm×400 mm. To determine the steel
material properties, three tension samples were cut
from randomly-selected steel tubes of each type, with
dimensions in accordance with Chinese standard
GB/T 228-2002. The properties of the steel tubes are
presented in Table 4.
2.2 Casting, curing and testing of concrete
specimens
Concrete was mixed in a planetary mixer of
100-liter capacity. The cement, silica fume (or fly ash)
and expansive agent were poured into mixer together
and mixed for about 1 minute, and then the aggregates
were added and mixed for about 30 s before adding
the remaining materials. Mixing was continued until a
uniform and flowable mixture was obtained. The fresh
concrete was then poured into molds and compacted by
hand.
A number of standard test specimens of different
sizes were chosen for investigating the various
parameters. Cubes of 150 mm size were used for
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Vol.26 No.4 CHEN Bing et al: Performance Investigation of Square Concrete-filled St
studying the compressive strength at 7 and 60 days.
Prisms of 100 mm × 100 mm × 515 mm were used for
shrinkage testing at 3, 7, 14, 28 and 60 days. For each
batch, six cubes of 150 mm size, and three 100 mm×
100 mm× 515 mm prisms were cast. The specimens
were stripped approximately 24 hours after casting
and placed in a fog room (95% ± 3% RH, 22 ± 2 ℃).
For shrinkage testing, after the specimens were cured
in the fog room for 23.5 ± 0.5 h, the specimens in the
molds were demolded and taken to a testing condition
(20 ± 3 ℃, RH>60%) and immediately measured
to get initial values. After that, the specimens were
returned to curing room and cured and then taken out
and measured for the length change at the testing ages.
The shrinkage strain was then calculated according to
ASTM C490-93a.
For square concrete-filled steel tube columns,
all empty tubes were accurately machined to the
desired length with a lathe and both ends of them were
smoothed. Then, the bottom of the tube was welded
with a steel cap plate. Before casting concrete, the
tubes were thoroughly degreased and rinsed with
hot water. Once dried, plastic concrete was placed in
three layers in the vertical tubes and compacted using
a vibrator. When finished, a steel cap plate was used
to seal the top of each column. The set up for square
concrete-filled steel tube column test is shown in Fig.1.
Electronic displacement transducers were placed to
monitor the axial deformation at symmetric locations.
Strain gauges were placed on the exterior surfaces of
the columns to measure the vertical deformations and
the perimeter expansion of the steel tubes in the mid-
height region at symmetric locations. These transducers
and strain gauges were also monitored at the early
stage of loading to ensure that a uniform compression
was applied on the compression specimens. All of the
columns were tested with a universal testing machine
with a 2000 kN capacity. Prior to testing, both ends
of the columns were strengthened by steel brackets so
that failure would not occur at the ends and the column
strength would not be influenced by end effects. The
load, as measured by the test machine’s load cell and
electronic load transducer, was applied with small
increments at a very slow rate (about 0.5-0.8 kN / s)
Each load interval was maintained for 2-3 min. At each
load increment the strain readings and the displacement
measurements were recorded by a computer-controlled
data acquisition system. When close to their ultimate
capacities, the loads were applied continuously, and the
loads, displacements, and strains were recorded. The
strain softening characteristics of the specimens were
also recorded.
3 Results and Discussion
3.1 Performance of concrete core
The testing results of concrete core are presented
in Table 5. From the table, it can be seen that the
addition of expansive agent causes the concrete core
strength decrease. For low strength grade concrete
core, the strength decreased obviously when expansive
agent was added. For example, the strength of concrete
core with 25% expansive agent was only 67% of that of
controlled concrete at the age of 60 days. Meanwhile,
for high strength grade concrete, the decreasing extent
of strength with addition of expansive agent was lower
than that of low strength grade concrete. The strength
of high strength grade concrete with 15% expansive
agent decreased only 7% compared with that of the
controlled concrete. From the testing results of slump,
it can be seen that the workability of concrete core is
very good and the loss of slump after one hour is very
small. It indicates that high strength concrete with good
workability for potential filling steel tube can be made
by partially replacing sand with certain content of
expansive agent.
Fig. 2 shows the development of expansive rate
with the age for concrete core without any restrain.
From Fig.2 (a), for low strength grade concrete, it can
be found that the expansive rate tended to be constant
at the age of 28 days when the content of expansive age
Journal of Wuhan University of Technology-Mater. Sci. Ed. Aug. 2011
733
was low (here, the content of expansive agent is lower
than 15%).
However, the expansive rate continued to increase
after 28 days when the content of expansive agent
was higher than 15%. However, in Fig.2 (b), the
development of expansive rate for high strength grade
concrete with the age was complex. The expansive
rate increased with the age within the initial 3 days and
tended to decrease with the age until 10 days. And then,
the expansive rate began to increase with the age and
reached the maximum at the age of 21 days. After that,
the expansive rate decreased slightly again and became
to be constant at the age of 60 days. Compared with the
low strength grade concrete, the value of compressive
rate of high strength grade concrete was much lower.
The main reason is that the content of cementitious
materials in high strength grade concrete is high, which
causes large shrinkage during the process of hydration.
It is also found that the expansive rate in high strength
grade concrete is unstable. At the same time, the value
of expansive rate of high strength grade concrete
depends on the content of expansive agent added. The
value of expansive rate increased with the content of
expansive agent.
3.2 Performance of square CFTs
3.2.1 Ultimate capacity of square CFTs
The maximum loads (N
c
) of CFTs obtained from
the tests are listed in Table 6, where, N
c
represents
the maximum load of CFTs and N0 represents the
maximum load of controlled CFTs. It can be seen
that, in the case of same thickness of steel tube, the
maximum load of CFTs increased with an increase in
the content of expansive agent and reached maximum
at the content of expansive agent of 20%. It indicates
that the addition of expansive agent in certain content
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Vol.26 No.4 CHEN Bing et al: Performance Investigation of Square Concrete-filled St
can enhance the maximum load of CFTs because of
the increased confinement effect of the concrete core
offered by the steel tube caused by the expanding
concrete core. On the other hand, the maximum load
of CFTs decreased when the content of expansive
agent was over 20%. Compared with the compressive
strength of concrete core, it can be thought that the
inner structure of concrete was destructed by the
swelling caused by very high content of expansive
agent and decreased with a decrease in the strength
of concrete core. In the case of the same content of
expansive agent addition, the increasing extent of
maximum load of CFTs with high strength concrete
increasing was much lower than that of CFTs with low
strength concrete. It can be explained by two reasons:
the expansive rate of high strength concrete was lower;
the elastic modulus of high strength concrete was
higher and the Possion’s ratio was lower.
3.2.2 Load-vertical deformation (N-ε) curve of CFTs
Fig.3 shows the typical N-ε curve for CFTs. It was
found that the curve could be divided into four stages
during the whole process:
Stage I (o-a): proportional increase of the
deflection with the load (elastic stage). There is some
rust peeled off from CFTs when the load reached point
a (about 90% of maximum load). In addition, the
deformation of CFTs was too small and invisible
Stage II (a-b): nonlinear increase of the deflection
with the load (yield stage). As the load continued to
increase and reached point b (the maximum load), the
CFTs began to yield and local buckling of the steel tube
occurred slightly.
Stage III (b-c): descending stage of N-εcurve. The
load began to decrease and the vertical deformation
increased rapidly.
Stage Ⅳ (c-d): the strengthen stage of N-εcurve.
During this process, the residual strength of CFTs
tended to be constant while the deformation increased.
The CFTs shows high ductility and large energy
absorption capacity during the whole loading process.
From the failure specimens, it was found that the
concrete core has been crushed, as shown in Fig. 4.
Pervious research indicated that the concrete
core strength hardly influenced the failure mode of the
CFTs
[14,15]
. However, in this research, the failure modes
of CFTs with different strength grade concrete core
Journal of Wuhan University of Technology-Mater. Sci. Ed. Aug. 2011
735
were different (shown in Fig.5). For CFTs with low
strength concrete core, the steel tube was prevented
from buckling inwards by the concrete core; hence,
outgoing ring buckles were forced to develop when
the section underwent vertical deformation (Fig.5
(a)). There are several ring buckles appeared around
the column in the vertical deformation. On the other
hand, for CFTs with high strength concrete core, it is
a typical failure mode of shear. Under the confinement
effect of the steel tube, the cracked surfaces slid against
each other as the applied axial loading increased. The
friction between the surfaces of the cracked concrete
was believed to be the main mechanism that maintained
the resistance to the applied axial load. Failure of CFTs
with high strength concrete core occurred at the ends,
where the concrete core failure in combined diagonal
and vertical cracks as shown in Fig.5 (b).
The effects of thickness of steel tube and content
of expansive agent on the curve of N-ε for CFTs with
different strength grade concrete core are presented
in Figs.6 and 7, respectively. It can be found that the
stage of elastic of CFTS with high strength concrete
core was longer than that of CFTs with low strength
concrete core. Compared with CFTs with normal
concrete core, the CFTs with expansive concrete core
showed higher capacity to resistant to load. In the
case of the same loading, the vertical deformation of
CFTs with expansive concrete core was lower than that
of CFTs with normal concrete core. Meanwhile, the
vertical deformation of CFTs with expansive concrete
core was also smaller than that of CFTs with normal
concrete core when it reached the maximum loading.
It can be also found that the maximum load of CFTs
increased with the increase of thickness of steel tube
in the case of the same strength concrete core, and the
vertical deformation increased too with the increase
of thickness of steel tube at the maximum loading.
Compared with Figs.6 and 7, the mechanical behavior
between CFTs with low strength concrete core and
CFTs with high strength concrete core were different:
the percent of elastic stage during the N-εcurve for
CFTs with high strength concrete core was larger than
that of low strength concrete core; the load of CFTs
with high strength concrete core descended faster than
that of low strength concrete core after the maximum
load. The first discrepancy indicates that the elastic
module of CFTs with high strength concrete core was
large and the deformation was small when it reached
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Vol.26 No.4 CHEN Bing et al: Performance Investigation of Square Concrete-filled St
ultimate loading capacity. The second discrepancy
maybe caused by the higher brittleness of high strength
concrete core.
4 Conclusions
a) The failure mode of CFTs depends on the
strength grade of concrete core. The failure mode
of CFTs with low strength concrete core was ring
buckling around columns, while CFTs with high
strength concrete core failed in shear.
b) The addition of expansive agent enhanced the
ultimate capacity of CFTs. For CFTs with low strength
concrete core, the ultimate capacity can be increased by
7%-15% when expansive agent was added into concrete
core by 10%-20% content. Meanwhile, for CFTs with
high strength concrete core, the enhancement effect of
expansive agent addition was not as remarkable as that
for CFTs with low strength concrete core.
c) CFTs with expansive concrete core showed
good capacity to resisting deformation. During the
elastic stage, the deformation of CFTs with expansive
concrete core was lower than that of normal concrete
core in the case of the same loading. The deformation
at the maximum load of CFTs with expansive concrete
core was also lower than that of normal concrete core.
d) CFTs with expansive concrete core showed
high ductility and large energy absorption capacity
during the whole loading process.
e) Compared with CFTs with low strength
concrete, the load of CFTs with high strength concrete
descanted rapidly after maximum load.
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