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Styrofoam as partial substitution of fine aggregate in lightweight concrete bricks

Mochamad Solikin, and Naufal Ikhsan

Citation: AIP Conference Proceedings 1977, 030041 (2018); doi: 10.1063/1.5042961

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Published by the American Institute of Physics

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Styrofoam as Partial Substitution of Fine Aggregate in
Lightweight Concrete Bricks
Mochamad Solikin1, a) and Naufal Ikhsan2, b)
Civil Engineering Department, Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta Indonesia
Jl. A. Yani, Tromol Pos 1, Pabelan, Kartasura, Surakarta 57162
Corresponding author:

Abstract. A development of concrete brick technology leads to some innovations in this field. To produce lightweight
concrete brick, lightweight aggregates such as Styrofoam, pumice stone and perlite, are required. The use of lightweight
material is beneficial to reduce the weight of the concrete. This research used Styrofoam as partial substitution for fine
aggregate and variation in mix proportion, which consisted of 0%, 30%, 40% and 50% fine aggregate replacement. The
experimental proportion employed three specimens for compression test, five specimens for dimensional uniform check
and water absorption, and two specimens for flexural strength. All the specimens were tested at the age of 14 days. The
results show variation of the weight volume, i.e., 2073.50 kg/cm3, 1813.9 kg/cm3, 1611.97 kg/cm3 and 1505.13 kg/cm3.
In addition, the compressive strength comprises 247.41 kg/cm2 234.07, kg/cm2, 128.9 kg/cm2 and 98.33 kg/cm2, whereas
the flexural strength result are 5.64 MPa, 5.33 MPa, 4.71 MPa and 4.53 MPa, respectively. This research confirms that
the utilization of Styrofoam up to 50% as partial replacement of fine aggregate meets the standard of concrete brick.

Concrete brick is a building element made from the main material of portland cement, water and fine aggregate
that are used for wall construction (SNI 03-0349-1989). The continuous development of concrete brick technology
has led to some innovations in construction, among them is lightweight concrete brick. Lightweight concrete has
weight volume of less than 1900 kg/m3 (SNI 03-2847-2002). To produce lightweight concrete brick, it is possible to
use materials that have low density in order to reduce the weight of concrete.
Lightweight concrete technology can be traced back in the world of construction from the use of lightweight
concrete in the construction of Pantheon in Rome, which was built in the 118 - 128 AD, using light volcanic rock
aggregate at the top of the dome [1]. Afterwards, the lightweight concrete technology grew faster within the period
of the Second World War in 1917, which developed the rotary kiln method by S.J. Hayde using sedimentary stones
and clays as light aggregates [2].
Some materials that have low density, i.e., Styrofoam, pumice stone, perlite, are potential as aggregate
substitution for lightweight concrete brick. Styrofoam or expanded polystyrene/EPS beads is a Polystyrene type
plastic foam [3] and has specific gravity of 16–640 kg/m3. Likewise, Chandru et al., [4] noted that lightweight
concrete technology with the addition of EPS, fly ash and quarry dust, is more effective on the non-structural use
such as lightweight bricks, wall panels and so on.
Previous studies of lightweight concrete with Styrofoam faced the condition of a concrete that Styrofoam is
always floating on the surface of concrete, a concrete segregation problem. Therefore, this research applied Self
Compacting Concrete (SCC) method, which is very high workability and enable the Styrofoam to easily flow on its
own weight to fill the whole of mold to reach self-compaction without any vibration [5]. Originally developed in
Japan, SCC technology was made possible by the much earlier development of superplasticizers for concrete [6]. In
Europe, it was probably firstly used in civil works for transportation networks in Sweden in the mid of 1990s. The

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European Council funded a multi-national, industry-lead project “SCC” in 1997-2000 and since then, SCC has been
increasingly used throughout European countries [7].
Based on such a context, this research aimed at finding out the mechanical properties of lightweight concrete
bricks using styrofoam as fine aggregate substitution with variation of 0%, 30%, 40% and 50% of fine aggregate


In this research, the materials are portland cement, fine aggregate, water, superplasticizer and styrofoam.
Styrofoam used in this research has a diameter between 3–6 mm with weight/volume of 7 kg/m3, which is different
from experiment performed by Mulla and Shelake with styrofoam between 1.18–2.36 mm in diameter [8].

FIGURE 1. Styrofoam used in this study.

Mix design
This research applied a mix design of PC: FA = 1: 3 with the value of w/c ratio of 0.38. The volume of
styrofoam was calculated as substitution of fine aggregate volume. The addition of superplasticizer was obtained
from 1% by weight of cement. The mix design in this research can be seen in Table 1.
TABLE 1. Mix design for 1 m3
Addition of Addition of
Addition of Styrofoam Addition of Styrofoam
Material Styrofoam Styrofoam
0% (kg) 30% (kg)
40% (kg) 50% (kg)

Fine Aggregate (FA) 1,544.55 1,081.185 926.73 772.275

Styrofoam 0 2.205 2.94 3.675
Portland Cement (PC) 570.5 570.5 570.5 570.5
Water 216.79 216.79 216.79 216.79
Superplasticizer 5.705 5.705 5.705 5.705
Total 2,337.545 1,876.385 1,722.665 1568.945

Based on Table 1, the reduction of weight/volume is predicted by 19.72% for 30% replacement, 26.3% for 40%
replacement and 32.88% for 50% replacement. All of the reductions meet the criteria of lightweight concrete as the
weight/volume is less than 1900 kg/cm3.
The dimension of concrete specimen was prepared by following the SNI 03-0349-1989 [9] procedure for
concrete brick test specimen, the SNI 03-1974-1990 for compressive test specimen and the SNI 03-4431-1997 for
flexural strength specimen. After the casting, all of the specimens were cured by immersing them in a water tank for
14 days followed by the specimen testing.


Fine Aggregate Characteristic Test

Fine aggregate characteristic tests followed SNI code for each of the test. The results of fine aggregate
characteristics are shown in Table 2.
TABLE 2. Result of Fine aggregate characteristic test
No Aggregate Characteristic Result Test Standard
1 Mud Content 0.022 0.05 (SNI 03-4142-1996)
2 Organic Levels NO. 3 NO. 3 (SNI-03-1750-1990)
3 Weight Volume 1.471 kg/liter 1.6 – 1.9 kg/liter (SNI 03-4804-1998)
4 SSD SNI 1970 : 2008
a. Decrease after 15 times collision 0.8
b. Decrease after 20 times collision 1.05
c. Decrease after 25 times collision 1.50
5 Specific Gravity 1.6 – 3.3 (SNI 1970 : 2008)
a. Bulk 2.28
b. SSD 2.65
c. Temporary 3.61
6 Fine Grain Modulus 4.36 1.5 – 3.8 (SNI S-04-1989-F)
7 Gradation Area Area I (SNI 03-1968-1990)

Table 2 shows that the fine aggregate meets the standard of fine aggregate as concrete material with the
exception of its fine grain modulus, which is higher than the standard.

Concrete Brick Mechanical Properties

Slump flow T50

Slump flow T50 is a test to fresh the concrete to find out its workability. The test was conducted by using a
slump flow cone that was filled up with the fresh concrete and lifted up vertically to allow the fresh concrete flow on
a flat surface. After 30 seconds, two perpendicular diameters were measured and the result is shown in Table 3.
TABLE 3. Slump flow T50 result
No. Addition of Styrofoam (%) Slump T50 (mm)
1 0 527.5
2 30 530
3 40 538
4 50 557.5

Based on Table 3, all test results of Slump flow T50 meet the ASTM standard because they are above 500 mm
[10]. Furthermore, it indicates that the utilization of Styrofoam does not affect the slump flow of SCC.

Weight Volume

The weight/volume was calculated by dividing the weight of specimen with its volume. The summary of
weight/volume is presented in Table 4.
TABLE 4. Lightweight concrete weight/volume
No. Addition of Styrofoam (%) Average Result (kg/cm3) Reduction (%)
1 0 2073.50 0
2 30 1813.39 12.54
3 40 1611.97 25.45
4 50 1505.13 35.26

Table 4 shows that the higher the percentage of the Styrofoam, the lower the decrease of weight/volume. The
result of the weight/volume for each variation is close to the prediction of weight/volume presented in Table 1.
Similar research was also conducted by Putra [11] by using 30% fine aggregate replacement by Styrofoam, with
weight/volume of 1881,25 kg/cm3 and fine 50% replacement had weight/volume of 1636,46 kg/cm3. In comparison
to previous research, the result of weight/volume is lower from that of previous research, both of which use the same
percentage of fine aggregate replacement. In addition, the results obtained on the weight/volume in this research is
lighter. It is important to note that previous research used normal concrete whereas this research applies Self
compacting concrete. Moreover, the observation after the compression test shows a relatively even distribution of
Styrofoam on the surface of cross section. Hence, it confirms that the use of SCC method is compatible to produce
Styrofoam concrete.

Water absorption

The water absorption test was calculated by dividing the dry and saturated weight volume of concrete brick
specimen and then it was compared to normal concrete water absorption. The following formula was used to find
out water absorption and the result of increase of water absorption related to the percentage of Styrofoam as shown
in Figure 2.

( A  B)
Water absorption = x100% (1)
A = Wet specimen weight (Kg)
B = Dry specimen weight (Kg)

FIGURE 2. Water absorption.

From Figure 2, it can be concluded that the higher the percentage of Styrofoam, the higher the water absorption.
This phenomenon is a result of more void in the aggregate in compared with the use of fine aggregate.

Compressive strength test

The compressive strength test was conducted by testing the specimen with the dimension of 15x15x15 cm3 in
universal test machine and the maximum load was obtained with the formula:

Compressive strength = (2)
P = Maximum load (Kg)
A = The area of the specimen (cm2)
The results of compressive strength test is presented in Figure 3.

(a) (b)
FIGURE 3. (a) Compressive strength result, (b) Compressive strength test.

Figure 3 shows that concrete compressive strength decreases in line with the increase of Styrofoam content. The
decrease of the compressive strength is due to the aggregate substitution was very soft which then leads the
Styrofoam foam is similar to void bubble inside the concrete. Nevertheless, the compressive strength still meets the
standard [9] as the minimum specification is 25 kg/cm2. In a similar test, Putra [11] examined 30% and 50% fine
aggregate volume replacement with Styrofoam, which obtained the compressive strength of 112.47 kg/cm2 and
50.37 kg/cm2, respectively. Another study conducted by Ranjbar et al., [12] s investigated 30% replacement of
aggregate with SCC method that obtained compressive strength of 174.37 kg/cm3. In compared to the finding
reported by Putra, this research gains better performance in compressive strength. The higher result is mainly
because the SCC is more condense than the normal concrete. It indicates that SCC is compatible with Styrofoam

Flexural strength test

Two-point loadings were applied in the flexural strength test with beam dimension of 15x15x60 cm3. The
formula for calculating the flexural strength was taken from the SNI 03-4431-1997 as follows:

Flexural Strength = (3)

P = Maximum load (N)
l = Specimen length (mm2)
b = Specimen base (mm2)
h = Specimen height (mm2)

The results of flexural strength test are shown in Figure 4.

(a) (b)
FIGURE 4. (a) Flexural strength result, (b) Flexural strength test.

Figure 4 shows that the flexural strength of concrete decreases when the addition of Styrofoam is increased. The
decrease of the flexural strength is in line with the decrease of the compressive strength, which is possibly caused by
the increase of the bubble void in the concrete. Furthermore, another factor is the soft properties in aggregate
substitution that can reduce the strength of the concrete. The results is better in compared with previous research by
Putra (11) because the percentage of the reduction of the flexural strength is smaller. In previous research, the
reduction of flexural strength in compared to the normal concrete is 30.83% for 30% Styrofoam utilization and
44.54% for 50% Styrofoam utilization. Differently, the reduction of flexural strength in this research only 5.5% for
30% Styrofoam utilization and 19.7% for 50% Styrofoam utilization.


From the analysis and discussion focusing on the mechanical properties of self-compacting concrete with the
utilization of Styrofoam to produce lightweight concrete brick, the following conclusion can be drawn:
1. All of the variation of Styrofoam content meets the slump flow properties when the appropriate amount of
superplasticizer are used.
2. Although the use of more Styrofoam will increase the water absorption as well as decrease the compressive
strength and the flexural strength, the decrease of weight volume which reaches the lightweight concrete
criteria is such an important result.
3. The proposed variation of Styrofoam as fine aggregate replacement is 50% as its properties meet the
standard and the weight volume is the lowest among other variations.
Further research would be more valuable when it includes the test on the addition of Styrofoam content as
partially fine aggregate substitution. In addition, another method of concrete casting is also required to get better
distribution of Styrofoam.

The authors would like to express gratitude to the staffs of the Civil Engineering Laboratory, Universitas
Muhammadiyah Surakarta, who kindly provided assistance and equipment during the experimental program.

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