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Aggregates are inert granular materials such as sand, gravel, or crushed stone that, along with water and Portland cement, are an essential ingredient in concrete. Aggregates are the important constituents of the concrete which give body to the concrete and also reduce shrinkage. Aggregates occupy 60 to 75 % of total volume of concrete. So, we can say that one should know definitely about the aggregates in depth to study more about concrete. Aggregates are classified based on so many considerations, but here we are going to discuss about their shape and size classifications in detail.

Aggregates are used in concrete for very specific purposes. The use of coarse and fine aggregates in concrete provides significant economic benefits for the final cost of concrete in place. Aggregates typically make up about 60 to 75 percent of the volume of a concrete mixture, and as they are the least expensive of the materials used in concrete, the economic impact is measurable.

In addition, the use of aggregates provides volume stability to the hardened concrete. The shrinkage potential of a cement paste is quite high when compared to the aggregates. Controlling shrinkage of the concrete material is important since shrinkage and cracking potential increase together. Higher shrinkage potential means more cracking when the concrete is restrained from movement by contact with the base material beneath a slab-on-grade, steel reinforcement within structural members, or contact with adjoining concrete members in a structure.

It is commonly accepted that water demand and cement content in a concrete mixture increases as the maximum coarse aggregate size decreases. The required volume of paste in a concrete mixture must increase, due to the increased surface area of smaller aggregate sizes, to coat all of the aggregate particles. With this increase in paste quantity there is a reduction of volume of the aggregates per unit of concrete produced, thus the shrinkage of the mixture increases. Again, an increase in shrinkage potential combined with restraint of the concrete section may add substantially to the cracking potential of a concrete section.

In short, the aggregates are used to improve economy, but more importantly do contribute significantly to the final properties of any concrete mixture.


Rounded aggregate

The rounded aggregates are completely shaped by attrition and available in the form of seashore gravel. Rounded aggregates result the minimum percentage of voids (32 33%) hence gives more workability. They require lesser amount of water-cement ratio. They are not considered for high strength concrete because of poor interlocking behavior and weak bond strength.

Irregular aggregates

The irregular or partly rounded aggregates are partly shaped by attrition and these are available in the form of pit sands and gravel. Irregular aggregates may result 35- 37% of voids. These will give lesser workability when compared to rounded aggregates. The bond strength is slightly higher than rounded aggregates but not as required for high strength concrete.

Angular aggregates

The angular aggregates consist well defined edges formed at the intersection of roughly planar surfaces and these are obtained by crushing the rocks. Angular aggregates result maximum percentage of voids (38-45%) hence gives less workability. They give 10-20% more compressive strength due to development of stronger aggregate-mortar bond. So, these are useful in high strength concrete manufacturing.

Flaky aggregates

When the aggregate thickness is small when compared with width and length of that aggregate it is said to be flaky aggregate. Or in the other, when the least dimension of aggregate is less than the 60% of its mean dimension then it is said to be flaky aggregate.

Elongated aggregates

When the length of aggregate is larger than the other two dimensions then it is called elongated aggregate or the length of aggregate is greater than 180% of its mean dimension.


Fine Aggregate

When the aggregate is sieved through 4.75mm sieve, the aggregate passed through it called as fine aggregate. Natural sand is generally used as fine aggregate, silt and clay are also come under this category. The soft deposit consisting of sand, silt and clay is termed as loam. The purpose of the fine aggregate is to fill the voids in the coarse aggregate and to act as a workability agent.

According to source fine aggregate may be described as:


Natural Sand it is the aggregate resulting from the natural disintegration


of rock and which has been deposited by streams or glacial agencies Crushed Stone Sand it is the fine aggregate produced by crushing hard stone.


Crushed Gravel Sand it is the fine aggregate produced by crushing natural gravel.

Coarse Aggregate

When the aggregate is sieved through 4.75mm sieve, the aggregate retained is called coarse aggregate. Gravel, cobble and boulders come under this category. The maximum size aggregate used may be dependent upon some conditions. In general, 40mm size aggregate used for normal strengths and 20mm size is used for high strength concrete.

According to source, coarse aggregate may be described as:


Uncrushed Gravel or Stone it results from natural disintegration of rock


Crushed Gravel or Stone it results from crushing of gravel or hard stone.


Partially Crushed Gravel or Stone it is a product of the blending of the above two aggregate.



The distribution of aggregate sizes in a concrete mix is important because it directly influences the amount of cement required for a given strength, workability of the mix (and amount of effort to place the mix in the forms), in place durability, and overall economy. In a gradation and size analysis, a sample of dry aggregate of known weight is separated through a series of sieves with progressively smaller openings. Once separated, the weight of particles retained on each sieve is measured and compared to the total sample weight. Particle size distribution is then expressed as a percent retained by weight on each sieve size.

Amount of Fine Material Passing the No.200 Sieve

The material passing the No. 200 sieve is clay, silt, or a combination of the two. It increases the water demand of the aggregate. Large amounts of materials smaller than No. 200 may also indicate the presence of clay coatings on the coarse aggregate that would decrease bond of the aggregate to the cement matrix.


Coarse-aggregate hardness is measured by the Los Angeles Abrasion

Test. The L.A. abrasion test measures the degradation of a coarse aggregate sample that is placed in a rotating drum with steel spheres. As the drum rotates the aggregate degrades by abrasion and impact with other aggregate particles and the steel spheres (called the “charge”). Once the test is complete, the calculated

mass of aggregate that has broken apart to smaller sizes is expressed as a percentage of the total mass of aggregate. Therefore, lower L.A. abrasion loss values indicate aggregate that is tougher and more resistant to abrasion.

The resulting breakdown is not directly related to the abrasion an aggregate receives in service, but the results can be empirically related to concretes exhibiting service lives.


This test measures the amount of aggregate degradation when exposed to alternating cycles of wetting and drying in a sulfate solution. The soundness test

determines an aggregate’s resistance to disintegration by weathering and, in

particular, freeze-thaw cycles. Aggregates that are durable (resistant to weathering) are less likely to degrade in the field and cause premature HMA pavement distress and potentially, failure. This test is intended to study the resistance of coarse and fine aggregates to weathering action and to judge the durability of the coarse aggregate.

Particle Shape

The Particle Shape Test determines the roundness and flakiness indices of aggregates by the use of Thickness/Flakiness Index Gauge and Length/Elongation Gauge.


Preferred use of each shape:



Rounded aggregates are preferred in concrete roads (rigid pavements) as


the workability of concrete increases due to the less friction between the surfaces. Angular shape of the particles is desirable in granular base coarse (flexible


pavement) due to better interlocking and increased stability. Flaky and Elongated particles are considered as a source of weakness.

Potential Alkali Reactivity

Aggregates that contain certain forms of silicas or carbonates may react with the alkalies present in portland cement (sodium oxide and potassium oxide). The reaction product cracks the concrete or may create pop-outs at the concrete surface.

Many test methods have been proposed by researchers for identifying potential reactivity of aggregate all over the world. These may be classified into three types.

Petrographic examinations

Chemical tests

Expansion tests

Petrographic examination is the process of identifying the types of minerals in aggregate or concrete section by observation using microscope or other aids. This method can identify types of minerals in the aggregate and give suggestions as for whether the aggregate is potentially reactive or not. Because the uncertainties involved in the test, the method is generally used as a screening test as a part of an investigation.

Many proposed test methods using chemical analyses to identify potential reactivity of aggregate. ASTM C389-87 chemical test (ASTM 1987a), for example, evaluates aggregate reactivity by measuring the amount of dissolved silica and the reduction of alkalinity in the reaction alkali solution.

In an expansion tests, mortar bars or concrete prisms are made using the aggregate to be investigated. There specimens are then put in to a specified condition and the expansion of the specimens are measured. Since at normal climate conditions the reaction will take a few years or even longer to complete, measures to accelerate the reaction sometimes adopted for such tests. One of such measures is to place the specimens at 38-degree C or 40-degree C and 100% relative humidity. In such a condition the AAR and its expansion complete within a few months’ time. In another such test using mortar bar as specimens, the mortar bars are immersed in a NaOH solution at 80C. This method is also referred to as Accelerated Mortar Bar Test.

It should be noted that the methods that have been proposed so far have their limitations. Some succeeds in identifying reactivity for certain aggregates whereas fails for others. Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain an aggregate is absolutely non-reactive using the currently available testing methods.

Resistance to Freezing & Thawing

The pore structure, absorption, porosity, and permeability of aggregates are especially important if they are used to make concrete exposed to repeated cycles of freezing and thawing. Aggregates that become critically saturated and then freeze cannot accommodate the expansion of the frozen water. Empirical data show that freeze-thaw deterioration is caused by the coarse aggregates and not the fine. A method prescribed in ‘‘Test Method for Resistance of Concrete to Rapid Freezing and Thawing,’’ measures concrete performance by weight changes, a reduction in the dynamic modulus of elasticity, and increases in sample length.

This test method covers the determination of the resistance of concrete specimens to rapidly repeated cycles of freezing and thawing in the laboratory by two different procedures:


Rapid Freezing and Thawing in Water


Rapid Freezing in Air and Thawing in Water

Both procedures are intended for use in determining the effects of variations in the properties of concrete on the resistance of the concrete to the freezing-and- thawing cycles specified in the particular procedure.


Erratic setting times and rates of hardening may be caused by organic impurities in the aggregates, primarily the sand. The presence of these impurities can

be investigated by a method given in ‘‘Test Method for Organic Impurities in Fine Aggregates for Concrete,’’ ASTM C40.

 Resistance to Freezing & Thawing The pore structure, absorption, porosity, and permeability of aggregates are
 Volume Stability Volume stability refers to susceptibility of aggregate to expansion when heated or to

Volume Stability

Volume stability refers to susceptibility of aggregate to expansion when heated or to cyclic expansions and contractions when saturated and dried. Aggregates that are susceptible to volume change due to moisture should be avoided.