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A model of concrete carbonation depth under

the coupling effects of load and environment


Y. Ren*, Q. Huang, X. L. Liu and Z. J. Tong
Based on the durability test data of the existing bridges in Hainan province, this study explored how
the following factors, namely, the strength grade of concrete, stress condition, chloride ion content
and environment influenced the depth of the concrete carbonation. A prediction model for the
concrete carbonation depth of the in-service bridges in Hainan was established. The actual
bridge carbonation data collected in recent years were employed to calculate the concrete
quality impact coefficients. The impact on the carbonation depth of concrete from stress
condition is large, the results show that the greater the concrete compressive stress, the slower
the concrete carbonation rate; the larger the tensile stress, the faster the concrete carbonation
rate. After inspection, it was found that the calculation results of the model agreed well with the
bridge field test results, which suggested that the model would have good applicability.
Keywords: Concrete, Carbonation, Coupling effects, Load, Prediction

Introduction
Besides being eroded by carbon dioxide and chloride,
concrete bridges in coastal or marine environment are
also subjected to the dead load and vehicle load. Some
concrete bridges, only in operation for approximately
10 years, start to have reinforcement corrosion and protection layer spalling, which will seriously affect the structures safety, serviceability and durability. To ensure the
service life of bridges, the durability of the concrete
material itself plays a key role.
In marine-atmosphere environment with sufficient
oxygen supply, the coupling effect of concrete carbonation and chloride ion erosion can cause the acceleration
of concrete damage and intensification of concrete corrosion. According to the mechanism of concrete corrosion, micro-cracks inside the concrete, under the
heavy load of a bridge, will be expanded to a certain
extent, then the damage and deterioration of a concrete
structure will be further accelerated and intensified, thus
the service life of the concrete structure will be shortened
correspondingly.1
Under the coupling effects of environment and heavy
traffic, concrete bridges in Hainan have serious steel corrosion. In particular, the concrete carbonation depth of
these bridges is significantly higher than those in the
inland areas. Based on the durability test data of the
bridges in Hainan, this research explored how the following factors, namely, the strength grade of concrete, stress
condition, chloride ion content and environment, influenced the depth of the concrete carbonation. In the meantime, a prediction model for the concrete carbonation

School of Transportation, Southeast University, Nanjing 210096, China


*Corresponding author, email magren@126.com

depth applicable to the in-service bridges in Hainan is


carried out. It provides a theoretical basis for further
service life evaluation.

Durability tests on the in-service


concrete bridges in Hainan
On the basis of thorough consideration of the impact of
the marine environment and the structural characteristics
of the in-service bridges in Hainan province, this research
took typical bridges in the east and west expressways in
Hainan to conduct the durability tests. The tested items
included bridge condition survey, environmental condition survey, traffic volume survey, investigation of the
concrete carbonation depth, detection of the chloride
ion content, detection of the thickness of the concrete
protective layer, detection of the reinforcement corrosion
and concrete crack detection.
The results showed that the concrete bridges in Hainan
experienced a relatively serious durability damage.
Common deficiencies include cracks induced by concrete
corrosion, concrete protective layer spalling and exposed
steel bars. Some bridges, only in operation for 10-odd
years, had serious concrete corrosions. In addition, for
the bridges in this region, concrete carbonation depth is
deep; chlorine ion content is high; the thickness of protective layer is small; especially, the detection results of the
carbonation depth of concrete are significantly higher
than those in the inland areas, and they are also higher
than the results derived from classic carbonation depth
prediction models. For example, a bridge had been in
service for only 13 years, but the carbonation depth
reached 33.11 mm. The following reasons might explain
this phenomenon:
(i) chloride content is high in Hainan;

W. S. Maney & Son Ltd 2015


Received 3 November 2014; accepted 12 March 2015

S9-224 DOI 10.1179/1432891715Z.0000000001970

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(ii) annual temperature and relative humidity are relatively higher in this region;
(iii) concrete grade of the bridges is high;
(iv) since there is no road toll station in Hainan, roads
are overloaded by vehicles.
Prediction models of the concrete carbonation depth of
the in-service bridges in Hainan were studied from the
above four aspects and discussed as follows.

A model of concrete carbonation depth

in the formula. On the basis of the durability test of the


concrete bridges in Hainan, the present study mainly
focused on the methods of determining the four key parameters mentioned above: Kf, ks, Ke and kCl.

Determination of the concrete quality impact


coefficient

So far, scholars from home and abroad have had a relatively mature cognition on the concrete carbonation
mechanism and influencing factors. The law that carbonation depth is proportional to the square root of the carbonised time has been widely accepted.2 There are three
categories of concrete carbonation depth models: theoretical model,3 empirical model and practical model
based on diffusion theory and experiments.4,5
According to the existing data and taking into account
that the depth of the concrete carbonation of the
bridges in Hainan is related to the factors such as the
stress condition of concrete, bridge environment and concrete quality, a modified random carbonation depth
model with multiple coefficients was derived on the
basis of Refs. 57, as shown in equation (1).

At present, most concrete carbonation models are established on the basis of the results of low-grade concrete
test or survey of actual engineering project. However, in
a real bridge structure, the grade of concrete strength is
higher. The concrete strength grade of the in-service
bridges in Hainan generally ranges from C30 to C50.
There is a large deviation between the carbonation
depth calculated by the existing model and the measured
results.
In order to determine the suitable concrete quality
impact coefficient for Hainan province, a standard
environment was set to analyse the data of the concrete
carbonation of 63 bridges in recent years. A diagram
was obtained to demonstrate the relation between the
speed of concrete carbonation and the standard value of
the concrete compressive strength (Fig. 1).
The results showed that the concrete carbonation depth
was proportional to the reciprocal of the compressive
strength. According to the trend of the scatter
diagram,3,5 equation (2) was selected for a regression
analysis:


X (t) = Kmc kj kCl kCO2 kp ks Ke Kf t

1
Kf = 68.83fcu,k
0.7307

Study and establishment of the concrete


carbonation depth model affected by
multi-factors

(1)

where X(t) is the carbonation depth of concrete (mm),


Kmc is the undetermined random variable of calculation
model, kj is the corner correction coefficient, kCl is the
influence coefficient of the concentration of chloride,
kCO2 is the CO2 concentration impact coefficient, kp is
the casting surface correction coefficient, ks is the stress
impact coefficient, Ke is the environment impact coefficient, Kf is the concrete quality impact coefficient and t
is the carbonised time. Considering the fact that the
corner concrete carbonation is actually a double diffusion, it is suggested that corner kj = 1.4 and non-corner
kj = 1.0. In addition, kCO2 = 1.11.4 according to the
local environmental condition, and kp = 1.2 according
to Ref. 8.
Equation (1) indicates that the key to establish the prediction model is to reasonably determine the coefficients

(2)

where Kf is the concrete quality impact coefficient, and


fcu,k is the standard value of the concrete compressive
strength.
After calculation by equation (2), comparing the
detected value and the calculated value, the goodness of
fit R 2 was 0.8352, whereas R 2 was 0.2747 by using the
method in Ref. 5. Thus, the concrete quality influencing
coefficient model established in this study was more suitable for Hainan.

Determination of the stress impact coefficient


Since 1 January 1994, Hainan province started collecting
motor vehicle fuel surcharge and removed all highway toll
stations, including those on the expressways. Then a following problem emerged: the number of overweight
vehicles was increasing year by year in Hainan province.

1 Relation schema of the carbonation speed and the standard value of the concrete compressive strength

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A model of concrete carbonation depth

2 Schema of the relation between the carbonation speed and the concrete compressive stress level

Some vehicles overweigh 400 times than their verified


weight, which makes the bridges overload. Many
bridges are in operation with deficiencies. Increasing
load will inevitably affect the stress condition of the concrete structure, and the stress change will narrow or widen
the cracks, and thus affect the compactness of the structure and the rate of concrete carbonation. An experiment
was conducted to prove that the compressive stress could
slow down the rate of concrete carbonation. When stress
is less than 0.7fc, the greater the compressive stress, the
slower the carbonation rate; on the contrary, the tensile
stress can accelerate the rate of concrete carbonation,
and the larger the tensile stress, the faster the carbonation
rate.68 Therefore, the tensile stress has an obvious impact
on the concrete carbonation depth.
Since the bridges in Hainan bear large traffic loads and
the overload phenomenon is serious, the designed standard load cannot sustain the current situation.
Therefore, the actual vehicle load distribution has to be
taken into consideration so as to evaluate the real stress
condition of the bridge. Through a survey on the traffic
volume of the expressway in Hainan, a vehicle load
model based on the measured data was established by
studying the statistical distribution of the components
and proportion of the traffic volume, as well as the
weight and speed of vehicles, axle load, time headway
and other parameters. At the same time, finite element
models were established for the bridges under the durability test in Hainan. By loading the actual vehicle load
on the model and analysing the results of the finite

element calculation, the actual stress in the concrete carbonation detected region was obtained.
Through normalisation of the concrete carbonation
depth data of the in-service bridges in Hainan area to
the uniform environment standards, a schema about the
relationship between the concrete carbonation rate and
the concrete stress level was obtained (Figs. 2 and 3).
It indicated that the greater the concrete compressive
stress, the slower the concrete carbonation; the larger
the tensile stress, the faster the concrete carbonation
(Figs. 2 and 3). This was in consistent with the results
of Ref. 9, where the concrete carbonation velocity and
the stress level was a quadratic function relation.
According to the trend of the scatter diagram, quadratic
polynomial can be selected as the most reasonable
method for the regression analysis. The following
equations can be obtained for a standard environment
in Hainan:
For the compressive stress:
ks = 0.6973 + 4.363sc 18.18s2c
for the tensile stress:
ks = 0.1291 + 11.74st 5.991s2t

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(4)

where ks is the concrete stress impact coefficient, sc is the


compressive stress level and st is the tensile stress level.

3 Schema of the relation between the carbonation speed and the concrete tensile stress level

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(3)

9.73
10.45
12.93
11.49
4.19
11.23

A model of concrete carbonation depth

It is known from the figure that, by applying equations


(3) and (4), comparing the detected value and calculated
value, R 2 is 0.853 and 0.861, respectively. But in Ref. 10,
the stress condition influencing coefficient ks was 1.0 for
the compression stress and was 1.1 for the tensile stress.
Thus, the stress influencing coefficient model established
by this study is more suitable for Hainan.

11.42
12.06
13.76
12.84
3.58
13.08

Determination of the environment impact


coefficient
As for the environmental impact coefficient Ke, the influence of temperature and humidity on the concrete carbonation is considered. The calculation is conducted
according to equation (5):11

13
13
12
11
11
13

11.75
12.10
14.60
11.90
3.20
12.71


4
Ke = T (1 RH)RH

(5)

where is the environment impact factor, RH is the relative humidity of environment (%) and T is the mean
annual temperature of environment (C).
The value of reflects the environment impact on the
carbonation depth in the area. According to the data in
Refs. 5 and 12, combining with the measured data of
Hainan province, for the region of Hainan, a standard
environment is determined as RH = 80% and T = 25C.
Through calculation, the value of is 2.816.

22.34
16.50
33.37
16.72
28.99
20.80

5.35
2.55
7.96
2.47
4.54
2.65

7
8
9
10
11
12

Pier
Pier
Pier
Pier
Pier
Pier

Determination of the impact coefficient of


chloride ion erosion on carbonation
At present, a lot of researches focus on the effect of carbonation on chloride ion erosion, but few studies on the
impact of chloride ion erosion on the carbonation of concrete are reported. A relevant research13 showed that
chloride ion erosion could refine the pore structure of
concrete, prevent carbon dioxide gas from entering the
structure, thus greatly improve the carbonation resistance
of concrete. The study also believed that, in a marineatmosphere environment, the concrete carbonation
depth was generally small, and the chloride ion erosion
was dominant.6 This conclusion was inconsistent with
the detection result that concrete carbonation depth is
relatively large in Hainan. Therefore, for the region of
Hainan, the influence of chloride ion on the carbonation
of erosion was not taken into consideration, and the value
of kCl was set 1.0.

24.75
17.02
33.11
15.20
25.69
21.36

Establishment of the concrete carbonation depth


model under the impact of multi-factors
In conclusion, the concrete carbonation depth prediction
model for the bridge components in Hainan can be
expressed in equation (6).

Hollow slab
T beam
Box girder
T beam
T beam
Hollow slab

13
12
13
11
13
13


4
X (t) = 2.816kj kCl kCO2 kp ks T RH(1 RH)

 
1
68.83fcu,k
0.7307 s t

1
2
3
4
5
6

Service
Calculated values in Calculated values in
time/year Measured values/mm this study/mm
Ref. 5/mm
Service
Calculated values in Calculated values
Detected
time/year Measured values/mm this study/mm
in Ref. 5/mm
No. site
Detected
No. site

Table 1 Comparison between the calculated values and the measured values of the concrete carbonation depth of the bridges in Hainan (a part of the results)

Ren et al.

(6)

The physical meanings and specific expressions of each


parameter in equation (6) can be referred from the
above equations.

Model verification
In order to verify the applicability and practicability of
this model and predict the concrete carbonation depth
of the in-service bridges in Hainan, the study conducted

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a comparison between the prediction results and the


detection results of the bridge carbonation depth. Part
of the results is shown in Table 1. All the values of
environmental impact parameters (such as CO2 concentration, temperature and humidity) and the concrete compressive strength were obtained from field tests. The
concrete stress level was determined by a survey on the
traffic volume and finite element analysis.
The R 2 for the comparison between the measured
values and the calculated values in the model of this
study was 0.9854, whereas the R 2 obtained from the comparison with Ref. 5 was 0.2230. It could be concluded that
the prediction model of the concrete carbonation depth of
the in-service bridges in Hainan provided by this study
had higher accuracy and stronger applicability compared
with other models.

Conclusions
1. Through the durability test on the in-service concrete
bridges in Hainan, it can be concluded that under the
combined effects of environment and vehicle loads,
there are serious reinforcement corrosions in concrete, and the concrete carbonation depth is significantly higher than that in the inland areas, and also
higher than the calculated results from the classical
prediction model for carbonation depth.
2. Most concrete carbonation models are based on the
result of low-grade concrete test or survey of actual
engineering project, but the actual strength grade of
concrete bridge structure is higher. The carbonation
depth calculated by the existing model greatly
varied from the measured results. In this study, the
actual bridge carbonation data collected in recent
years were employed to calculate the concrete
quality impact coefficients. The results fit better
with the measured results.
3. The phenomenon of vehicle overloading is serious in
Hainan. The impact on the carbonation depth of concrete from stress condition is big. Through the statistical analysis of traffic volume and finite element
calculation, the relationship between the real stress
level of concrete and the carbonation rate is obtained:
the greater the concrete compressive stress, the slower
the concrete carbonation rate; the larger the tensile
stress, the faster the concrete carbonation rate.

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4. Taking into consideration of the impact on the concrete


carbonation depth from factors such as the strength
grade of concrete, stress condition and environment,
a prediction model for the concrete carbonation
depth of the in-service bridges in Hainan has been
established. After inspection, the calculated results of
the model fit well with the field test results, suggesting
this model is of good applicability.

Acknowledgement
This study was supported by the National Natural
Science Foundation of China (51208096).

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