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Journal of Cleaner Production 133 (2016) 117e125

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Journal of Cleaner Production


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jclepro

A mix design procedure for geopolymer concrete with y ash


P. Pavithra a, M. Srinivasula Reddy a, Pasla Dinakar a, *, B. Hanumantha Rao a,
B.K. Satpathy b, A.N. Mohanty b
a
b

School of Infrastructure, Indian Institute of Technology, Bhubaneswar, Odisha 751013, India


National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO), Bhubaneswar 751013, India

a r t i c l e i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 20 October 2015
Received in revised form
7 May 2016
Accepted 7 May 2016
Available online 24 May 2016

Effective promotion of GPC is required in order to minimize the environment threat due to y ash waste
disposal and reduce cement consumption. To achieve this, specic mix design procedure for development of GPC is essential. Therefore, efforts have been made in this paper to develop a mix design
methodology for GPC with the main focus on achieving better compressive strength in an economical
way for different alkaline solutions to binder proportions. Low calcium y ash brought from local sources
as the binder material, sodium hydroxide and sodium silicate as alkaline activator solutions, and
aggregate grading based on DIN standards, have been employed for conducting experimental investigation. Correlation between the alkaline activator solution to binder ratios and 28 day compressive
strength has been investigated to propose conceptual mix design method for GPC in a rational way. Mix
design is proposed for various AAS/FA ratios ranging from 0.4 to 0.8, and the 28 day compressive strength
as high as 54 MPa has been noticed. The design methodology proposed has been given step-wise and the
same has been veried with the help of an example in this paper.
2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords:
Activator solution
Compressive strength
Fly ash
Geopolymer concrete
Mix design

1. Introduction
Nowadays, the increase in the people's attention on the conservation of natural resources and minimization of environment
depletion has led to look at the alternatives to accustomed construction materials. Currently, ordinary Portland cement based
concrete is the leading construction material all across the world,
with the cement usage being 4.0 billion tons per annum and growth
rate being 4% per annum (Mineral Commodities Summary, 2014).
The major problems associated with the Portland cement are its
production, which is energy consuming and more signicantly it
releases very high volume of carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere.
At the same time the disposal of industrial wastes such as y ash,
ground granulated blast furnace slag, mine waste, red mud etc, has
become a big problem, it requires large areas of useful land and also
has huge impact on the environment. Therefore, the need is
emanated from further investigation into safe waste disposal and

Abbreviations used: AAS, Alkaline Activator Solution; AAS/FA, Alkaline Activator


Solution to Fly Ash; GPC, GeoPolymer Concrete; NaOH, Sodium hydroxide; Na2SiO3,
Sodium silicate; SSD, Saturated Surface Dry condition.
* Corresponding author. Tel.: 91 674 2306353.
E-mail address: pdinakar@rediffmail.com (P. Dinakar).
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.05.041
0959-6526/ 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

investigation into alternative to cement products with reduced


environmental impacts. In these circumstances geopolymer concrete is found to be one of the better alternatives in terms of
reducing the global warming, as it can reduce the CO2 emissions
caused by cement industries by about 80% (Gartner, 2004). Geopolymer concrete (GPC) is a sustainable material which not only
utilises industrial wastes such as y ash effectively but also serve as
a better alternative to ordinary Portland cement concrete (McLellan
et al., 2011). From the past decade or so geopolymer concrete is
certainly emerged as a novel construction material and has a huge
potential to become a prominent construction product of good
environmental sustainability (Chindaprasirt and Chalee, 2014; Sun
et al., 2013). Geopolymer concrete is a new form of concrete which
is produced by the alkali activation of material rich in aluminosilicates (Davidovits, 1991). Geopolymers binders can be produced
from variety of natural materials and industrial by-products like
metakaolin, y ash, ground granulated blast furnace slag, red mud,
mine waste etc (Faten et al., 2013; Rahimah et al., 2015). Of these, y
ash is a widely used source material due to its low cost, abundance
availability and greater potential for making geopolymers (Xu and
Deventer, 2000).
The alkaline activator solution mainly consists of soluble alkalis
that are usually of sodium or potassium based. Sodium hydroxide
(NaOH) in combination with sodium silicate (Na2SiO3) is the

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P. Pavithra et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 133 (2016) 117e125

commonly used alkaline activator to develop GPC (Kong and


Sanjayan, 2008). The common way to develop GPC is to dry mix
the solid constituents of 3 min followed by addition of liquid constituents of the mixture and wet mixing for another 4 min (Hardjito
and Rangan, 2005), but Rattanasak and Chindaprasirt (2009)
noticed that mixing sequence has an effect on geopolymerization
and nal compressive strength of the geopolymers. Also, it has been
reported that the molarity of NaOH solution inuences the leaching
behaviour of aluminates and silicates from y ash. Bakiri et al.
(2012) reported the inuence of NaOH molarity and Na2SiO3 to
NaOH ratios on the compressive strength of y ash based geopolymer concrete. Zarina et al. (2015) observed the effect of curing
temperature and time on the property of y ash based geopolymer
pastes and noticed that curing temperature and time have affected
the geopolymer strength. Provis et al. (2012) found that modulus of
Na2SiO3 solution signicantly affects the strength of y ash based
geopolymer materials. Manjunath et al. (2011) observed the inuence of activator solutions to y ash ratios and NaOH molarities on
the compressive strength of y ash based GPC. Hardjito et al. (2008)
described the effect of water to geopolymer solids ratios by mass on
the compressive strength of y ash based GPC.
Development of geopolymer concrete requires suitable mix
design to attain its desired strength and workability. Despite of the
phenomenal research carried out in the area of geopolymer concrete there is only limited research available on its mix design, a
proper and more rational mix design method for GPC is still lacking.
Even though researchers like Anuradha et al. (2012), Ferdous et al.
(2013), etc proposed their own mix design methodologies; they are
all largely based by trial and error approach. Mix design and
proportioning of GPC become complex due to more variables being
involved in it (Montes et al., 2013) and there is no standard mix
design method available for designing GPC to date. Therefore, in
this paper an attempt has been made to present a new mix design
methodology for y ash based GPC.

is a costly ingredient and from the economic design point of view,


use of alkaline solution must be minimised and also the desired
strength and workability has to be maintained. On account of
limited research conducted on mix design of GPC, there seems to be
no specic procedure which considers all the essential parameters.
Therefore, in this method an attempt has been made to propose a
mix design procedure which takes into account the aforesaid
drawbacks of the earlier proposed methods. Major emphasis has
been kept on the cost reduction without compromising on the
desired strength and workability.
3. Proposed method for designing GPC using y ash
In this paper attempt has been made to propose mix design
methodology for y ash based GPC in a rational way. As said earlier,
the activator solution is the costliest among the raw materials
involved in the production of GPC, and by xing the activator
content the cost of the nal GPC product can be considerably
brought down. Also, by doing this, exibility in the design mixes
both on the strength requirement and desired activator solution
point of view can be rendered. The essential features of the proposed method are the exibility to select activator solution to y
ash ratio required for specic strength and to estimate the probable
strength that can be achieved for certain activator solution to y
ash ratio. Binder content is calculated based on the relationship
between activator solution content and activator solution to y ash
ratio. In the proposed mix design methodology the materials volume and its specic gravity is also taken into account. Volume of
total aggregates is determined by using absolute volume method; it
considers the specic gravity of all the ingredients used. Then the
individual aggregate content is established from combined aggregate grading curve. Provision is also made for enhancing the
workability of GPC. The procedure of the proposed mix design
methodology is outlined in the form of ow chart as depicted in
Fig. 1 and the step by step procedure is summarized as follows;

2. Review of mix design methods and limitations


3.1. Fix the alkaline activator solution (AAS) content
A few mix design methodologies have been proposed earlier for
GPC. Of them all, Lloyd and Rangan (2010) were the rst to propose
a mix design methodology for y ash based geopolymer concrete.
According to this method, density of GPC has been assumed as
2400 kg/m3 and the total aggregates content was xed at 80%. By
deducting the total aggregates content from the assumed density of
2400 kg/m3, the total mass of y ash and alkaline activator solution
was obtained. Consequently, the y ash content was determined
based on the activator solution to y ash ratio. Further, individual
sodium silicate and sodium hydroxide content were determined
from the Na2SiO3/NaOH ratio employed. Finally, the designed
compressive strength and workability was determined by using
water to geopolymer solid ratios. The main thing lacking in this
method is that it doesn't take into consideration the specic gravity
of materials used. Anuradha et al. (2012) suggested a design procedure for different grade of GPC by using Indian standards. In this
method, y ash content and activator solution to y ash ratio was
selected based on the strength required and by keeping ne
aggregate percentage as constant. Later, correction to ne aggregate percentage was performed based on its zone. The activator
solution content employed was observed to be excess for the corresponding strength reported. Ferdous et al. (2013) proposed a mix
design for y ash based GPC by considering the concrete density
variability, specic gravity of the materials, air content, workability,
and the strength requirement. The signicant issue that arises in
their design process could be the selection of activator solution to
y ash ratio, and also in determining the exact activator solution
content with respect to the y ash content. In GPC, alkaline solution

In the mix proportioning of normal concrete, water content is


xed based on the maximum size of the aggregate (IS 10262: 2009),
and the same procedure can be adopted in the case of GPC also for
xing the AAS content. By following this method, the total water
content in the mix can be kept within the maximum water content
limits as prescribed in Table 1.
3.2. Selection of alkaline activator solution to y ash ratio (AAS/FA)
(or) determination of strength
Generally when strength is considered as the principal criteria
then the alkaline activator solution to y ash ratio corresponding to
the 28 day compressive strength can be chosen by adopting the
standard water to cement ratio curve of normal concrete as shown
in Fig. 2 which is as per ACI standards. For the mix designed for
specic AAS/FA ratio, then the minimum compressive strength that
has to be achieved at 28 days shall be determined from the correlation between 28 day compressive strength and w/c ratio as
depicted in Fig. 2.
3.3. Calculation of binder content
Fly ash content was calculated using AAS/FA ratio and AAS
content. Let Bc be the binder content, then

Binder content BC AAS content=AAS=FA

P. Pavithra et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 133 (2016) 117e125

119

Fig. 1. Flow chart for proposed mix design methodology.

Table 1
Maximum water content per cubic metre of concrete (IS 10262: 2009).
Nominal maximum size of aggregate (mm)

Maximum water content (kg/m3)

10
20
40

208
186
165

3.4. Determination of activators content


From the literature, NaOH and Na2SiO3 were found to be the
commonly used alkali activators (Lloyd and Rangan, 2010).

Therefore, in the present study NaOH and Na2SiO3 were chosen as


the activators.

Let;

Na2 SiO3 to NaOH R

Mass of Na2 SiO3 NaOH


Mass of R  NaOH NaOH
Mass of NaOH R 1
Mass of NaOH MNaOH Mass of AAS=R 1
Mass of Na2 SiO3 MNa2 SiO3 R  MNaOH

Then;

Mass of AAS

From the above relation, individual mass of NaOH and Na2SiO3


can be determined.

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P. Pavithra et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 133 (2016) 117e125

3.7. Calculation of ne and coarse aggregate content

28 day Compressive Strength (MPa)

80

ACI Strength to water cement ratio


relationship of normal concrete

The ne and coarse aggregate content was determined according to combined aggregate grading as recommended by DIN 1045
standards (1988). Let the percentage of ne aggregate in the total
aggregate be x% and that of the coarse aggregate be y%. Various
sizes of coarse aggregates are used and are categorized as CA1, CA2
and CA3. Let percentage of CA1 mm size of aggregate be y1%,
CA2 mm size of aggregate be y2% and CA3 mm size of aggregate be
y3%. Then,

60

40

Mass of fine aggregate MFA x%  VA  GFA  1000


Mass of CA1 aggregate MCA1  y1 %  VA  GCA1  1000
Mass of CA2 aggregate MCA2  y2 %  VA  GCA2  1000
Mass of CA3 aggregate MCA3 y3 %  VA  GCA3  1000

20

0
0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

0.7

0.8

0.9

w/c ratio
Fig. 2. Strength versus water to cement ratio curve.

3.5. Calculation of water content in AAS


Water to geopolymer solid ratio is an important parameter
which assist in the design of y ash based GPC mixtures (Heah et al.,
2012). The total water present in the AAS should be determined to
calculate the water to geopolymer solid ratio and the sum of the
mass of the water present in the NaOH solution and Na2SiO3 solutions gives the total mass of water or water content of alkaline
activator solution.
Let, SNaOH and SNa2 SiO3 be the percentage of solids in NaOH and
Na2SiO3, respectively, then the water content is determined as
follows;

Water Content Wc Mass of water in NaOH Na2 SiO3


Mass of water in NaOH MNaOH  SNaOH  MNaOH
MNaOH 1  SNaOH

Mass of water in Na2 SiO3 MNa2 SiO3  SNa2 SiO3 MNa2 SiO3
MNa2 SiO3 1  MNa2 SiO3

where, GFA is the specic gravity of ne aggregate; GCA1 , GCA2 , and


GCA3 are the specic gravity of CA1 mm, CA2 mm, and CA3 mm
aggregate respectively.
3.8. Use of superplasticizer (SP)
Alkaline solution has the higher viscosity than the potable water. The alkaline solution when used for making concrete (GPC) it
was found to inhibit the concrete's workability, whereas when
equal amount of water was used in ordinary concrete better
workability was observed. Therefore, attempts were made to
improve the workability of GPC by adding some extra water, and it
was noticed that the addition of extra water has detrimental effect
on the strength and also bulging phenomenon in the specimens
was observed. To avoid the addition of extra water, Naphthalene
based SP was used to improve the workability of GPC, and it was
found that SP has the profound impact on the behaviour of fresh
GPC without affecting much the strength and other properties.
Further, care has been taken to reduce the water demand by using
aggregates in their saturated surface dry (SSD) condition. From the
experimental observations it was found that the SP dosage was
effective for the range between 0.8 and 1.5% of binder content.
3.9. Validation of strength attained with proposed mix design

3.6. Determination of total aggregates


The total aggregates content was determined as per the absolute
volume method. The volume of total aggregates include all the
aggregates used in the study i.e. ne aggregate passing 4.75 mm
and coarse aggregates passing 20 mm, 12.5 mm, and 6.3 mm in
different proportions. Let, the total volume of concrete is Vc, volume
of total aggregates is VTA, volume of binder is VB, volume of NaOH is
VNaOH, volume of Na2SiO3 is VNa2 SiO3 , and volume of entrapped air
be Va, then;

Volume of Concrete Vc VTA VB VNaOH VNa2 SiO3 Va


Where, VB Bc/GB;
VNaOH MNaOH/GNaOH;
VNa2 SiO3 MNa2 SiO3 =GNa2 SiO3 ; Va assumed as 2%
GB, GNaOH, and GNa2 SiO3 are the specic gravities of binder, NaOH,
and Na2SiO3 respectively.
Let us consider 1cubic metre concrete, then;

0:98 VTA VB VNaOH VNa2 SiO3



VTA 0:98  Bc =GB MNaOH =GNaOH



MNa2 SiO3 GNa2 SiO3  f1=1000g

The 28-day compressive strength obtained from testing has


been cross veried with the strength determined using the methodology proposed in Section 3.2. If it satises the requirement, nal
development of GPC can be carried out or else the mix should be redesigned by changing the parameters.
4. Verication of the mix methodology using experimental
data
4.1. Preparation and testing of specimens
In order to validate the mix design proposed, laboratory experiments have been conducted.
Based on the mortar trial mix results, NaOH molarity and
Na2SiO3 to NaOH ratio were xed at 16 M and 1.5, respectively. GPC
specimens were cast for different AAS/FA ratios such as 0.4, 0.5, 0.6,
0.7, and 0.8. NaOH solution was prepared one day in advance to
account for complete dissolution of crystals and dissipation of heat
liberated. The mix proportions as shown in Table 2 were employed
for making the GPC specimens. The y ash used was classied as
Class F y ash as per the ASTM specications and its chemical
composition was shown in Table 3. Crushed granite stones with
maximum size of 20 mm were used as coarse aggregates, and a
good quality, well-graded river sand categorized as Zone-II with

P. Pavithra et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 133 (2016) 117e125

121

Table 2
Mix proportion used in the study.
Mix

1
2
3
4
5

AAS/FA

0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8

Fly ash Kg/m3

500
400
333
286
250

NaOH Kg/m3

80
80
80
80
80

Na2SiO3 Kg/m3

120
120
120
120
120

Aggregates (kg/m3)
20 mm

12.5 mm

6.3 mm

Fine Aggregate

465
500
523
540
552

538
578
605
624
638

318
341
357
369
377

320
344
360
371
380

Water/Geopolymer Solid

SP kg/m3

0.21
0.26
0.30
0.34
0.37

6
4
3.2
e
e

Table 3
Chemical composition of y ash.
Oxide

SiO2

Al2O3

Fe2O3

CaO

Na2O

K2O

MgO

SO3

LOI

Wt (%)

61.89

28.05

4.11

0.87

0.40

0.82

0.38

1.32

0.49

maximum grain size of 4.75 mm were used as ne aggregates,


respectively. The coarse aggregates used consist of various particle
sizes passing 20 mm, 12.5 mm and 6.3 mm size sieves in various
proportions as elaborated below.
In order to verify the mix design procedure, a sample design of
GPC with AAS/FA ratio of 0.5 is considered as an example. The
important parameters considered in the mix consists of percentage
of solids in NaOH is 45.5%, percentage of solids in Na2SiO3 is 34.5%,
specic gravity of y ash is 2.2, NaOH is 1.451, Na2SiO3 is 1.35. The
specic gravity of the aggregates such as 20 mm passing, 12.5 mm
passing, 6.3 mm passing, and 4.75 mm (sand) passing is 2.73, 2.76,
2.61, and 2.63, respectively. The sample design procedure is
explained in an example.
For each mix type, a set of 3 cubes of size 10  10  10 cm each
for determining 28 day and 90 day compressive strength were cast.
The mixing sequence employed consists of dry mixing of the solid
components in the laboratory pan mixer for 3 min and then
continued mixing for another 3 min by adding AAS. After ensuring
proper mixing of all the components Naphthalene based superplasticizer was added and mixing was continued for further 4 min.
Wet mixing time was observed to be very crucial for GPC strength
development. Care has been taken to ensure proper mixing of AAS
with y ash. The workability of GPC was determined using slump
cone test as per ASTM C 143 (2005). Immediately after casting, the
specimens were covered with a polythene lm and then kept in
oven at a constant temperature of 60  C for a period of 24 h as
shown in Fig. 3. At the end of the curing period the specimens were
removed from oven and allowed to cool at room temperature
before demoulding. Later, the specimens were left to air dry at atmospheric temperature until the day of testing. Compressive
strength test was carried out at the age of 28 and 90 days, and the
average value of the three specimens was considered.
In order to verify the mix design procedure, a sample design of
GPC with AAS/FA ratio of 0.5 is considered as an example. The
important parameters considered in the mix consists of percentage
of solids in NaOH is 45.5%, percentage of solids in Na2SiO3 is 34.5%,
specic gravity of y ash is 2.2, NaOH is 1.451, Na2SiO3 is 1.35. The
specic gravity of the aggregates such as 20 mm passing, 12.5 mm
passing, 6.3 mm passing, and 4.75 mm (sand) passing is 2.73, 2.76,
2.61, and 2.63, respectively. The sample design procedure is
explained as follows;
4.2. Mix methodology verication using an example
STEP 1: Fix the Alkaline Activator Solution (AAS) Content
From the trials carried out in the laboratory it was found that at
an AAS content of 200 kg/m3 GPC can be developed effectively with

Fig. 3. Mixing and curing of GPC.

better strength, workability and economy. Moreover, at AAS content of 200 kg/m3, the water content present in the AAS found to be
within the maximum water content limits given in Table 1 for
20 mm maximum aggregate size case.
STEP 2: Determination of Strength
From Fig. 2, for AAS/FA ratio of 0.5, the minimum 28 day
compressive strength that has to be obtained is 38 MPa.
STEP 3: Calculation of Binder Content

Binder content BC AAS content=AAS=FA


BC 200=0:5 400 kg=m3
STEP 4: Calculation of individual activator solution contents
For all the mixes the Na2SiO3 and NaOH ratio employed was 1.5,
and R shall be taken as 1.5.

Mass of AAS Mass of NaOH 1:5 1


Mass of NaOH MNaOH Mass of AAS=2:5
200=2:5
80 kg=m3

Mass of Na2 SiO3 MNa2 SiO3 1:5  MNaOH
1:5  80 120 kg=m3

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P. Pavithra et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 133 (2016) 117e125


100

STEP 5: Calculation of Water Content in AAS

From the above calculations it is found that 16 M NaOH solutions


prepared for the mix consists of 36.4 kg solids dissolved in 43.6 kg
of water, and the sodium silicate gel used in the mix consists of
78.6 kg of water out of 120 kg solution. The total water content in
the mix is thus found to be 122.2 kg per cubic metre of concrete.
The total solid content which includes the y ash, solids in NaOH,
and Na2SiO3 in the mix contains 477.8 kg per cubic metre of concrete. Thus, the water to geopolymer solid ratio is obtained as 0.26.

Grading curve used for GPC


Standard DIN 'A' grading curve
80

% passing

Mass of water in NaOH MNaOH 1  SNaOH


80 1  0:455
80 0:545
43:6 kg=m3

Mass of water in Na2 SiO3 MNa2 SiO3 1  SNa2 SiO3
120 1  0:345
120 0:655
78:6 kg=m3
Total Water Content Wc in the mix Mass of water in
NaOH Na2 SiO3
43:6 78:6
122:2 kg=m3

60

Aggregate percentage fraction used


20 mm
- 28%
12.5 mm - 32%
6.3 mm - 20%
Fine
- 20%

40

20

0
0.1

1
Particle size (log scale) (mm)

10

Fig. 4. Combined aggregate grading curve.

STEP 8: Superplasticizer (SP) Dosage

STEP 6: Determination of Total Aggregates

Based on the experimental observations in the laboratory, SP


dosage of 1% of binder content is found to be suitable to improve
the workability and the same has been followed in this case.

The volume of total aggregates (VTA) is obtained by using the


absolute volume method as follows:

SP Dosage 1%  400 4 kg=m3


Bc =GB MNaOH =GNaOH



MNa2 SiO3 MNa2 SiO3  f1=1000g

VTA 0:98 

STEP 9: Validation of Strength Achieved

0:98  f400=2:2 80=1:4506 120=1:35g


 f1=1000g
0:98  0:326 0:654 m3

STEP 7: Calculation of Fine and Coarse Aggregate Content


Combined aggregate grading to match the standard combined
grading curve as recommended by DIN 1045 (1988) standard was
utilized. Coarse aggregates passing 20 mm, 12.5 mm, 6.3 mm size
sieves, and ne aggregates passing 4.75 mm size sieve were used in
various proportions to meet the standard grading curve of DIN A
which is as shown in Fig. 4. The aggregates proportion comprising
of 28% of 20 mm passing, 32% of 12 mm passing, 20% of 6 mm
passing, and 20% of 4.75 mm passing, has been adopted to meet the
requirements of DIN A grading curve. The proportions of each
fractions of aggregates used are also shown in Fig. 4.

Massof fine aggregateMFA 20%VA GFA 1000


20%0:6542:631000
344 kg=m3
Massof 20mmaggregate M20 28%VA G20 1000
28%0:6542:731000
499:92 kg=m3
Massof 12:5mm aggregateM12:5 32%VA G12:5 1000
32%0:6542:761000
577:61 kg=m3
Massof 6:3mm aggregate M6:3 20%VA G6:3 1000
20%0:6542:611000
341:38 kg=m3

Compressive strength tests were conducted on the cubes cast in


the laboratory by using the mix design proposed above. From the
tests, the 28 day compressive strength obtained was 45.95 MPa. The
strength obtained found to be greater than the corresponding
strength of 37.69 MPa which was required as per Fig. 2. As the
designed mix satises the strength requirement, the nal development of GPC can be made by employing the above design steps.
5. Experimental results and discussion
Tests were conducted on different GPC mixes with various AAS/
FA ratios and the results showing slump value and compressive
strengths were tabulated as shown in Table 4. From the table, it can
be observed that slump value increased with the increase in the
activator solution to y ash ratio. Similar trend can be observed
with the normal concrete, where slump increases with increase in
water to cement ratio (Alawode and Idowu, 2011). Further, it was
observed that the compressive strengths obtained for the designed
GPC mixes with various AAS/FA ratios were found to be higher than
the corresponding strengths derived from the strength vs. w/c ratio
curve of ACI standards for normal concrete as shown in Fig. 2.
However, the alkaline activator solution to y ash ratio does not
exactly t with the ACI proposed strength vs. water to cement ratio
Table 4
Properties of GPC.
AAS/FA

Slump (mm)

28 day strength (MPa)

90 day strength (MPa)

0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8

35
60
80
110
Collapse

53.56
45.95
37.12
33.41
23.45

55.33
47.49
39.96
36.85
28.26

P. Pavithra et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 133 (2016) 117e125

28 day compressive strength (MPa)

60
R2 = 0.934
28 day compressive strength = 20.352 (AAS/FA) -1.119

50

40

30

Normal concrete
(ACI relationship)
GPC relationship

20

10
0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

0.7

w/c (or) AAS/FA

Fig. 5. Comparison of 28 day strengths.

0.8

0.9

123

curve. In order to rationalize the design mix, comparisons of the


strengths obtained were made with the modied ACI strength vs.
w/c ratio proposed by Dinakar et al. (2013) as shown in Fig. 5. In the
design mix, AAS/FA ratio has been treated as w/c ratio. Comparisons
were made between the compressive strengths determined from
the designed GPC mixes and the strengths determined from
modied ACI relationship of normal concrete shown in Fig. 5. The
results revealed that the strengths obtained in the case of GPC
design mixes were in line with the corresponding OPC concretes.
It has also been observed from the experimental results that GPC
mixes have followed similar trend as that of OPC concrete mixes.
Like OPC concretes GPCs shown decrease in the compressive
strengths with the increase in AAS/FA ratio (water to cement ratio
in case of OPCs).
Further, it has been found that, with the decrease in the AAS/FA
ratio the compressive strength increased for both 28 days and 90
days, as shown in Table 4. The 28 day strengths of GPC mixes were
found to be varied between 23.45 and 53.56 MPa, and that of 90 day

Fig. 6. SEM images of y ash based GPC for different AAS/FA (a) 0.4 (b) 0.5 (c) 0.6 (d) 0.7 (e) 0.8.

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P. Pavithra et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 133 (2016) 117e125

strengths were found to be varied between 28.26 and 55.33 MPa. As


such, not much increase in the strength was observed between 28
days and 90 days tested samples, and the 90-day strengths of GPC
mixtures were found to be around 103e120% of the 28-day
strength. This increase may be due to the continued polymerisation
at the room temperature (Amol et al., 2014). Also, it was noticed
that, signicant strength gain with age was observed for concretes
with high activator solution to y ash ratio. This could be due to the
excess solution present in the system which hinders the polymerisation process in the initial stage (Heah et al., 2012). Further, it was
observed from the studies that the strengths of GPCs increased with
age for all the GPC mixes made with various AAS/FA ratios.
The compressive strength developed in GPC has been found to
be more sensitive to the liquid in the mix design (Albitar et al.,
2015). High amount of liquid content than the solids in the
mixture leads to the decrease in the strength because of the
reduced contact between the activating solution and the reacting
material. This reduced contact has been found to be due to the large
volume occupation of liquids (He et al., 2013). To better understand
these facts, SEM images of GPC obtained for different solutions to
binder ratio were shown in Fig. 6. Unreacted y ash particles were
clearly seen in the samples (shown with arrow marks). More volume of unreacted y ash particles can be observed with the increase in the AAS/FA ratio. Several phases like unreacted y ash
particles, particles attacked by activator solution, reaction products,
etc., can be observed in the geopolymer matrix shown in Fig. 6, and
it is in agreement with the earlier observation reported by Jimenez
et al. (2005). The larger precipitations have been observed for GPC
with activator solution to y ash ratio of 0.4, and gradual decrease
in the precipitations was noticed with the increase in the activator
solution. Similar effect was noticed earlier by Heah et al. (2012). On
further examination of SEM images of various mixes it was noticed
that increase in the activator solution content limits the contact
between the y ash particles and activator solution and it could be
the reason for the decrease in compressive strength. Further, it was
also observed that unreacted y ash particles present in the higher
solution systems were covered with some unknown lms which
possibly could have hindered the polymerisation process (Arioz
and Kokar, 2013).
The overall results showed that excellent compressive strengths
can be achieved by following the proposed mix design method. All
GPC mixes have met their strength requirements with respective to
the modied ACI strength to water cement ratio curve, for different
activator solution to y ash ratios. It can also be seen that GPC of
desired strength can be obtained by using the proposed mix design
methodology. Compressive strengths ranging from 23 to 53 MPa
were obtained by using the proposed mix design methodology.
Hence, the proposed mix design method can be employed to design
the y ash based GPC efciently and effectively for regular structural works.

6. Conclusions
A rational mix design approach for y ash based GPC has been
introduced. A review on the earlier proposed mix designs shows
that they all depend mainly on the AAS content. As AAS is the
costliest ingredient of all, providing exibility in xing the AAS
content is very advantageous from the economy point of view. The
ndings of this study suggest that, using the proposed method GPC
can be produced for a specic strength by employing the corresponding AAS/FA ratio obtained from the modied ACI strength vs.
w/c ratio curve. GPC can also be produced for a specic AAS/FA ratio
to achieve the corresponding strength. Using the proposed

methodology, y ash based GPC of strengths ranging from 23 to


53 MPa at varying activator solution to y ash ratio can be developed. By strictly following the proposed steps the required GPCs
can be produced effectively and efciently. From the experimental
investigations it has been found that, GPC follow similar trend to
that of normal concrete in the strength aspect where the strength
decreases with the increase in the uid content.
Acknowledgement
The authors are thankful to National Aluminium Company
Limited (NALCO), (NBC/R&D/3415/2014) Bhubaneswar for funding
this research work. The nancial support is greatly acknowledged.
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