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Materials and Design 32 (2011) 3017–3020

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Short Communication

Electromagnetic wave absorption properties of cement-based composites filled

with porous materials
Li Baoyi a, Duan Yuping a,⇑, Zhang Yuefang a,b, Liu Shunhua a
School of Materials and Engineering, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian 116085, China
College of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, Hainan University, Haikou, 510228, China

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: To solve more and more serious electromagnetic radiations, cement-based composites were prepared by
Received 10 September 2010 introducing porous materials into cement. The reflection losses were studied using arched testing
Accepted 4 December 2010 method in the frequency range of 1.7–18 GHz. The results showed that the absorption properties were
Available online 13 December 2010
improved obviously. The mechanisms of wave attenuation of the composites were discussed, which indi-
cated that the scattering and multi-scattering in porous beads played an important role. The filling ratio
of porous beads, the bead geometries as well as the conformation of cement all had noticeably influence
on the absorption properties. The lowest reflection loss of 22 dB was obtained at 5.6 GHz when the
specimen was filled with 50 vol.% expanded polystyrene, and the effective absorption bandwidth (less
than 10 dB) reached 10.6 GHz when the specimen was filled with 50 vol.% expanded polystyrene and
2 vol.% carbon black.
Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction tilayer structures or special shapes [11]. But the complex processes
and the decrease of mechanical properties limit their application in
Nowadays, the serious electromagnetic radiations not only cement composites.
influence the normal operation of electronic devices, but also do Porous materials are complex systems involving elastic struc-
harm to the health of human beings [1–3]. Thus, the demands for tures and air cavities, with good properties such as low density
developing electromagnetic wave absorbers with wider absorbing and high specific surface. Thus they are used widely in sound
bandwidths and more effective absorption properties are ever absorbing materials. In recent researches [12], it has been reported
increasing [4]. Especially, electromagnetic interference (EMI) pre- that the absorption properties of materials can be improved with
venting for buildings is of increasing importance. Many absorbers porous structures. The main factors influencing on the absorption
[5,6] have been developed to deal with this problem, most of which properties are given such as the pore size, relative density, the
are cement-based composites. sample thickness, and so on. In our study, absorbers with strong
Cement is slightly conductive and its absorbing ability is poor, absorbing peak and broad-band were prepared by introducing por-
but it is a practical way to improve the electromagnetic absorption ous materials into cement. The absorption properties and absorp-
properties by introducing fillings or loadings. Generally research- tion mechanisms of cement composites were described and
ers [7–10] develop cement absorbing composites by filling absor- analyzed, respectively. The effects on the absorbing effectiveness,
bents with large dielectric losses or magnetic losses, including such as the contents, geometrics of porous beads and the confor-
carbon, metal powders, magnetic ferrites and their fibers. Ferrite mation of cement matrix, were also investigated.
material has excellent absorption performance in low frequency
ranges, and the weakness in high frequency ranges has compen- 2. Experimentation
sated for by improving the molecular composition of ferrites and
compounding with other materials. However, the weakness of The porous fillings used in our work were expanded polystyrene
being heavy remains still. Dielectric absorbers have a weight (EPS), expanded perlite and porous schist. The cement and water
advantage but do not match up to the absorption effectiveness of were first mixed in a UJZ-15 mortar mixer with the water–cement
magnetic absorbers. Besides, absorbers which can suppress the ratio of 0.35. Porous beads were gradually added into the paste
reflection from the frontal faces are developed by employing mul- with the designed volume fraction and mixed to uniform distribu-
tion. Then the mixture were poured into the oiled moulds with a
size of 200  200  15 mm3 and vibrated on a vibration table for
⇑ Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 411 84708446, fax: +86 411 84709284. 1 min. The specimen was smoothed with a float and then cured
E-mail address: (D. Yuping). at the room temperature for 28 days.

0261-3069/$ - see front matter Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
3018 L. Baoyi et al. / Materials and Design 32 (2011) 3017–3020

The electromagnetic parameters of cement were tested by coax- Fig. 1 shows the propagation of electromagnetic wave in single
ial flange method with an Agilent 8720B vector network analyzer. hollow sphere. The wave attenuation of single hollow sphere Iatt,
The reflection losses of specimens were tested by the arched test- the absorption attenuation of reflected wave Iref and scattering
ing method in the frequency range of 1.7–18 GHz. attenuation of scattered wave Isca should conform to the energy
conservation law, namely, I0 = Iref + Isca + Iatt. Here, I0 is the energy
3. Theoretical analysis Isca) = I0(1ffi  eax), where a
of incident wave. Then, Iatt = I0  (Irefp+ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
is the attenuation constant and a ¼ 2p2 f 2 le0 e00 . It is clearly that
3.1. The impedance characteristics of cement composites at a fixed frequency the higher imaginary part of permittivity e00
and permeability l, the more is Iatt. Since the e00 and l of cement
To prepare an excellent absorber, a suppressive reflection loss R are very low, Iatt is small. But if some conducting or magnetic fill-
is the prerequisite, which is bound up with the input impedance Zin ings are introduced into cement wall, the absorption attenuation
and expressed as [13] would be enhanced a lot.
  rffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi Most of effective medium theories (Maxwell Garnett, Brugg-
Z in  Z 0  l0 l pffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
R ¼ 20log10  ; Z in ¼ tanhðj2pfd l0 e0 leÞ ð1Þ eman, Looyenga, etc.) consider inhomogeneities that are much
Z in þ Z 0  e0 e smaller than the wavelength [16]. However, when radius of the
where d is the thickness, f is the frequency of the incident wave, Z0, particle is big (P 102 lm), scattering of the particle will play an
l0 and e0 are the impedance, permeability and permittivity of vac- important role in wave attenuation [17]. Because of the large size
uum, l and e are the relative permeability and permittivity of the of the hollow sphere (the average diameter is about 2.5 mm), the
absorber, respectively. For a perfect wave absorber R should be scattering attenuation should not be neglected. When electromag-
infinitesimal, namely the absorber should have e equal to l with netic wave enters into the absorber along x-axis direction, the
both being as large as possible. However, the electromagnetic interface between absorber and air is defined as x = 0, the energy
parameters of pure cement are almost constant, of which of scattering wave at x point Isca(x) can be expressed as follows
e1 ¼ e01  je001 ¼ 5  j0:2 and l1 ¼ l01  jl001 ¼ 1. Cement can attenu- [18]:
ate electromagnetic wave merely by the dielectric losses resulting !
k ðje  1j2 þ jl  1j2 Þ
from some metal oxide and minerals in cement components. There- Isca ðxÞ ¼ I0 expðnrsc  xÞ ¼ I0 exp n x
fore the R of cement composites can be decreased by the perfor-
mances of optimizing the electromagnetic parameters and ð2Þ
providing new attenuation approaches. In our work, the decrease
of e by filling porous beads makes the permittivity close to perme- where I0 is the energy of incident electromagnetic wave, k ¼
ability, and the complex refraction and scattering in the porous 2pf e0 l0 el is wave number in the medium, rsc is the scattering
beads provides a new path for wave attenuation. Thus, the filling cross section, and n is the particles number in a unit volume of
of porous beads in cement leads to a marked improvement of wave the composites. From this, the scattering attenuation is closely re-
attenuation. lated to the dielectric constant, the permeability and the filling ratio
of porous beads. Therefore, the more energy of electromagnetic
3.2. The scattering and absorption in hollow spherical-shell wave is attenuated with the introducing of absorbents in cement
wall and the increase in bead content.
The scattering and absorption of electromagnetic wave by het- Fig. 2 shows the phenomenon of multiple scattering and refrac-
erogeneous materials is complex and the exact solution is impossi- tion in the composites. The interactions of incident wave and hol-
ble to find [14,15]. In our study, following conditions are assumed low spheres are complicated. In the whole, the wave loss in the
to analyze the scattering and absorption of incident wave in ce- composites consists of the scattering loss and the absorption loss.
ment composites: (i) the porous beads are homogeneous spherical, The scattering contains anisotropic scattering in single hollow
electromagnetic transparent and isolated in composites; (ii) ce- sphere and multiple scattering among hollow spheres, between
ment is coated uniformly on the surface of porous beads; (iii) the which the latter is of great importance for wave attenuation
interaction between the porous bead and cement is assumed to [18,19]. The anisotropic scattering contributes to the increase of
be weak so that it can be neglected. Then the specimen can be multiple scattering, meanwhile the multiple scattering increases
approximated as a combination of a number of hollow spheres, the attenuation times in single hollow sphere. Thus the increase
of which the cores are porous beads and the shells are cement in the concentration of porous beads in a certain range can enhance
walls as shown in Fig. 1. The incident wave would be attenuated the scattering loss by enhancing the attenuation probabilities.
by the complex refraction and scattering as well as the dielectric
losses by cement matrix when it propagates in the specimen.

Fig. 2. Sketch of the phenomenon of multiple scattering and refraction in

Fig. 1. Sketch of the propagation of electromagnetic wave in single hollow sphere. composites.
L. Baoyi et al. / Materials and Design 32 (2011) 3017–3020 3019

However, the further increase works against the wave attenuation

due to the weak absorption effectiveness of single hollow sphere
caused by the thinning of cement wall.

4. Results and discussion

4.1. Influence of the filling ratio of porous beads

Fig. 3 shows a typical relationship between the reflection losses

and the filling ratio of porous beads; the fillings in (a) and (b) are
perlite and EPS, respectively. In general, the reflection losses of dif-
ferent compositions give very similar profile in the curves. Three or
four obviously absorption peaks are seen in each curve, whose val-
ues decrease and the corresponding frequencies shift toward lower
regions as the increasing in the filling ratio of porous beads. As ana-
lyzed, the filling of porous beads can improve the impedance char- Fig. 4. The reflection losses of composites employing porous beads with different
acteristics of cement composites. In other words, the impedance of geometries; EPS, schist and perlite are spherical, lamellar and random-shaped,
cement composite is closer to the impedance of air, resulting in the respectively. The average diameters of filling beads are 2 mm.
decrease of peak values. The shift of matching frequency is possibly
due to the inverse relationship between the matching thickness dm average radius of 2 mm when they are equated to spheres. It can
and frequency fm, which is expressed as dm ¼ c=4f m el [20]. The be seen that EPS improves the absorption properties most,
propagation length of incident wave in the absorber increases by followed by schist and perlite. The possible reason is discussed as
the multiple scattering and refraction, and it equates the increase follows. The beads with asymmetric geometries make the propaga-
of absorber thickness. So the matching frequency shifts toward tion and absorption of incident wave much more complex [15]. On
lower regions finally, although the decrease of l and e obstructs the one hand, the phase interference between the incident wave
this change. and scattered wave also contributes to the electromagnetic atten-
uation [12]. When the geometries of porous beads are uniform and
4.2. Influence of the geometries of porous beads symmetrical, such interference losses are enhanced by the higher
probability of interference. On the other hand, additional pores
Fig. 4 shows the reflection losses of composites employing are introduced into cement matrix as the filling of porous beads,
porous beads with different geometries. EPS, schist and perlite whose content increases when the beads are spherical and smooth.
are spherical, lamellar and random-shaped, respectively, with an The pores can further improve the impedance matching character-
istics and leads to the lower reflection losses sequentially. So from
this we can conclude that the symmetric geometries of porous
beads are beneficial to wave absorption.

4.3. Influence of the conformation of cement matrix

Fig. 5 shows the variation of reflection losses versus the concen-

tration of carbon black (CB) in cement composites. As discussed in
Section 3.2, the conducting or magnetic fillings can enhance the
absorption attenuation of refracted wave and scattering attenua-
tion of scattered wave, thus the absorption properties can be im-
proved by filling CB. When the specimen is filled with 50 vol.%
EPS and 2 vol.% CB, the effective absorption bandwidth (less than
10 dB) reached 10.6 GHz and the lowest reflection loss of
22 dB was obtained at 5.6 GHz when the specimen was filled

Fig. 3. Influence of the filling ratio of porous beads on reflection losses; the fillings Fig. 5. The variation of reflection losses versus the concentration of carbon black
in (a) and (b) are perlite and EPS with an average diameter of 2 mm, respectively. (CB) in cement composites; the average diameters of EPS beads are 3 mm.
3020 L. Baoyi et al. / Materials and Design 32 (2011) 3017–3020

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