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Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Structural Dynamics, EURODYN 2011 3310

Leuven, Belgium, 4-6 July 2011

G. De Roeck, G. Degrande, G. Lombaert, G. Müller (eds.)
ISBN 978-90-760-1931-4

Blast performance of concrete slabs in combination with fire

Fermín Pascualena, Jean Marie Ndambi, Bruno Reymen, Bram Desmet, Eric Segers, John Vantomme

Department of Construction and Civil Engineering, Royal Military Academy, Rue de la Renaissance 30 Brussels, Belgium

ABSTRACT: This paper makes reference to the project “Strategisch basisonderzoek” (IWT-SBO N° 080010), Fundamental
design approaches for improvement of the fire safety in car parks, funded by IWT-Vlaanderen in the 'SBO' framework (Strategic
Basic Research). It deals with the determination of the loading bearing capacity of reinforced concrete hollow core slabs when
they are submitted first to fire and secondly to a blast load. The software Autodyn (Ansys) is used to perform the numerical
simulations. This software permits to analyze transient phenomena such as an explosion, where material properties change very
rapidly (milliseconds). On the other hand, fire does not change properties that fast. The paper focuses on the solution of this
difficulty by the performance of the preliminary analysis of the changes of material properties due to fire, which allows to
determine the proper input for the numerical blast analysis by means of Autodyn. Full scale experimental campaigns have been
conducted in order to validate numerical models for both explosion and fire phenomena. It is observed that the numerical part
corresponding to blast load analysis matches significantly with the experimental predictions. The main conclusion is that crack
patterns and blast load bearing capacity is not altered by fire with temperatures below 400ºC.

KEY WORDS: Blast load response; fire; reinforced concrete slabs; Autodyn.

2.2 Fire assessment
The concern about the security related to the risk of fire and
As explained in the introduction, the influence of fire on
explosion in reinforced concrete buildings and facilities is
structures can not be directly assessed in Autodyn due to the
getting more important nowadays. On the other hand, the
fact that this software is only capable to analyze transient
actual design methodology with respect to fire and explosion
phenomena. This is overcome by means of an analysis of the
safety is often only based on semi-empirical approaches. The
change of material properties due to fire.
cost of experiments with fire and blast is high, which explains
When concrete is subjected to very high temperatures,
the attractiveness of numerical developments.
dehydration of the cement stone can occur, degrading the
The authors observe that numerical tools in general do not
hydrated structure. This results in a reduction of strength and
permit to analyze fire and blast at the same time, because of
modulus of elasticity (stiffness) of the concrete [9].
the total difference in the time variation of the physical
Furthermore, local thermal differential dilatation can lead to
phenomena. The authors use the software Autodyn, which is
cracking or even spalling (detaching of layers on the surface
capable to analyze the structural response of dynamic actions
of concrete structures which is exposed to high rising
such as blast loads. The fire action is studied by means of the
estimation of the reduction of different material properties
Finally, thermal and physical properties also do change with
based on bibliographic results, and then these changes are
fire, principally, specific heat, thermal conductivity and global
applied as an input in Autodyn prior the blast load.
thermal elongation.
Specific heat and thermal conductivity determine the
2 THEORETICAL BACKGROUND temperature distribution inside the concrete. Figure 1 shows
typical temperature profiles in reinforced concrete slabs
2.1 Blast and explosion phenomena depending on the thickness and the resistance class.
An explosion can be defined as a large-scaled, rapid and Based on the local temperature, the material properties of both
sudden release of energy. When detonation of an explosive concrete and reinforcing steel are reduced. Table 1 and 2 give
occurs, a blast wave is generated due to the expansion of an overview of the temperature effects on the main material
gases leading to high temperatures and overpressures. After a properties as identified on figure 2.
short time, the pressure behind the front wave decays below
the atmospheric pressure creating a vacuum (negative phase)
When a shock wave finds an obstacle in its path, the peak
reflected overpressure increases with a certain factor. The
amplification factor depends on the intensity of the shock
wave and the incident angle.
Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Structural Dynamics, EURODYN 2011 3311

where fc,k= characteristic compressive cylinder strength of

concrete at 28 days, fc,θ = compressive strength at temperature
θ, εc1,θ= compressive strain in the concrete at the peak stress fc
at temperature θ, εcu1,θ= ultimate compressive strain in the
concrete at temperature θ, E20º= tangent modulus of elasticity
of concrete at 20ºC, Ecθ= tangent modulus of elasticity of
concrete at temperature θ. [6, 7].

Based on the curve of figure 2 and the parameters of table 1,

the stress-strain relation for concrete at different temperatures
is obtained (figure3).
σc (MPa) Concrete C40/50 : stress-strain relation


Figure 1: Temperature profiles in function of the thickness for 300°C

RC walls and slabs. Different fire resistance class for diverse
time of standard fire exposure is shown [7].


Table 1. Values for the main parameters of the stress-strain

relationships of normal weight concrete with calcareous
aggregates concrete at elevated temperatures [7]. εc (0/00)
0.0 5.0 10.0 15.0 20.0 25.0 30.0 35.0 40.0

Temperature Figure 3: Stress-strain relationship for concrete at different

Calcareous aggregates
[ºC] temperatures based on [7]
(θ) fc,θ/ fc,k εc1,θ εcu1,θ Ecθ/E20º
20 1 0.0025 0.02 1 In the case of the steel, the procedure is exactly the same. The
100 1 0.0040 0.0225 0.625 values of the material properties are shown in Table 2.
200 0.97 0.0055 0.025 0.441
300 0.91 0.007 0.0275 0.325 Table 2. Values for the main parameters of the stress-strain
400 0.85 0.010 0.030 0.212 relationships of hot rolled reinforcing steel at elevated
temperatures [7].
500 0.74 0.015 0.0325 0.123
600 0.60 0.025 0.035 0.06
700 0.43 0.025 0.0375 0.043 Hot rolled steel
800 0.27 0.025 0.0400 0.027
(θ) fc,θ/ fc,k ES,θ
900 0.15 0.025 0.0425 0.015
20 1 1
1000 0.06 0.025 0.0450 0.006
100 1 1
1100 0.02 0.025 0.0475 0.002
200 1 0.90
1200 0.00 - - 0
300 1 0.80
400 1 0.70
The value for the Young modulus of concrete is obtained by
the approximation of the stress-strain curve to the Hooke's law 500 0.78 0.60
(Figure 2). 600 0.47 0.31
700 0.23 0.13
800 0.11 0.009
900 0.06 0.007
1000 0.04 0.004
1100 0.02 0.002
1200 0.00 -

3.1 Concrete
Due to its porosity and heterogeneity, concrete has a complex
non-linear behavior. Therefore, these particularities should be
taken into account in the Equation of State, which relates the
local hydrostatic pressure in function of the density (or
Figure 2: Stress-Strain relationship of concrete under specific volume) and the specific energy. In the case of
compression at elevated temperatures [7]. Autodyn, generally p-α EOS is used for brittle materials. It's a
Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Structural Dynamics, EURODYN 2011 3312

phenomenological approach which provides the correct

description at both high and low stresses. The principal
assumption is that the specific internal energy is the same for
a porous material as for the same material at solid density at
identical conditions of pressure and temperature. Thus, it
combines a polynomial equation together with a factor which
describes the influence of the porosity, α. It determines the
volumetric stiffness of the porous material between initial
compaction pressure pe and the fully compacted pressure, ps.
⎡ p −p⎤
α = 1 + (α p − 1)⎢ s ⎥ (1)
⎣ ps − pe ⎦
where αp= porosity in the initial plastic yield, p = current Figure 5: Representation of the three yield through the relation
pressure, n = compaction exponent [18]. pressure-uniaxial compressive stress.
The polynomial equation results on:
Taking the basics of Chen and Johnson & Holmquist work,
the model includes the influence of the strain hardening and
p = K1 μ + K 2 μ 2 + K 3 μ 3 + (B0 + B1 μ )ρ s e (2) the third invariant dependence. Besides, the softening (strain
and crack softening) of the material is also examined by the
ρ addition of a fracture strength surface.
where μ= −1 with ρ=density and ρs=density at zero Nevertheless, for a correct damage pattern description, some
ρs modifications were done in the basic configuration of the
pressure. RHT model. The crack development is better described with
K1, K2, K3, B0 and B1 are material parameters which describe the principal stress tensile failure criteria (instead of Hydro
the polynomial equation and e=internal energy. Pmin) together with crack softening and an associated flow
The concrete was modeled by means of the RHT material rule (called bulking in Autodyn) [15].
model [16]. It is an enhancement to the Johnson and
Holmquist concrete model developed by Riedel, Hiermayer
and Thoma. It is inspired in Chen's summarizing work [4] on
fully tri-axial stress based failure surface, and consequently, it 3.2 Reinforcement Steel
is composed of three pressure dependent stress surfaces: The steel behavior is modeled by the use of the piecewise
elastic limit surface, failure surface and residual surface Johnson-Cook model (Johnson & Cook, 1985). According to
(Figures 4, 5). JC model, the yield depends on strain, strain rate and
temperature, as follows:

[ ][
Y = A + Bε pn ⋅ 1 + C ln ε *p ⋅ 1 − THm ][ ] (3)
where ε n
p= effec. plastic strain, ε *
p= effec. plastic strain rate,
TH= homologous temperature, A,B,C, n and m are material
The piecewise model is a modification of the common JC
model, where the dependence on effective plastic strain (first
term of equation (3)) is replaced by a piecewise linear
function of yield stress Y versus effective plastic strain εp. The
different stress-strain values are taken from [17] for a S500
3.3 Remarks
Thermal dilatation is not taken into account in none of the
models. In the case experimental results show important
Figure 4: Representation of the three yield surfaces through effects of this phenomenon on the concrete specimen, these
the relation pressure-deviatoric stress. effects can only be considered by implementing them in the
numerical model. For example, the effects of spalling can be
simulated by locally reducing the thickness of the slab in a
numerical model.
Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Structural Dynamics, EURODYN 2011 3313

4.1 Slab element and explosion features
The slab analyzed in the present study is 5.2m long, 0.6m
wide and 0.13m thick. The concrete quality is C40/50. The
main reinforcement is composed of 6 bars Ø12mm of S500
steel with a cover of 30mm. The technological reinforcement
is equally distributed but with Ø5mm. Figure 6 shows the
geometry of the slab and its section.


Figure 6: slab section dimensions

The amount of explosive is 1.5kg of C4 for both blast

response individually and fire + blast response together. The
stand off Distance is 1m from the center of the slab (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Stand off distance

4.2 Meshing (b)

By use of symmetries, just a quarter of the entire model can be
Figure 8: (a) Quarter of the model after the first cycle of the
To get a realistic pressure distribution in the numerical
simulation including air gauges numbered from 18 to 25. (b)
simulation, some points must be taken into account. First, and
Air and slab mesh.
knowing that the blast wave will move away from the source
of the explosive spherically, it is allowed to represent the
Finally, reinforcement steel is modeled with beam solver
explosive in a 1D "wedge" with axial symmetry and then
elements and then by joining it to concrete.
remap it in 3D. This makes the simulation both faster (the
In the case where fire is acting prior to the blast load, the
amount of cells is always lower than in 3D) and more accurate
concrete and steel are defined with new materials created by
(the size of the cells is smaller than in 3D). Secondly, the air
reducing the value of different material properties as
mesh must be precisely defined. This is because a cell has the
explained in point 2.2. Thus, the concrete and steel meshes are
same pressure in the entire volume, thus, the bigger the cell is,
filled out with these new materials depending on the distance
the more information is lost. For this case, a fine mesh (5mm)
from the fire exposure (Figure 9).
is defined next to the middle of the slab, where the maximum
This slab in study is subdivided into different layers, where,
reflected overpressure is taken place, and is progressively
depending on the temperature, a certain reduction on the
increasing until it reaches the maximum size of 17mm at the
compressive strength and Young modulus is applied (Table1
ends of the slab. This air mesh uses an Eulerian solver in order
concrete, Table2 steel)
to solve the equilibrium equations every time step. The main
advantage is that cells are not deformed and this way grid
distortions are avoided.
On the other hand, the slab itself is defined with Lagrangian
cubic elements of 10mm. As the aim of this study covers the
analysis of the structural response, this solver is more suitable
since deformations are better described (Figure 8).
Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Structural Dynamics, EURODYN 2011 3314

Figure 11 shows the time history of the pressures measured in

gauges 18 to 25, as indicated in figure 7, defining the time
dependent pressure profile on the slab.

Figure 9: Subdivision of the concrete slab into layers with

different concretes depending on the temperature for R30
class concrete.

4.3 Boundary conditions

In order to reproduce the simple support, two semi-cylinders
are added close to the ends and they are attached to the slab Figure 11: Time history of the pressure distribution on the
through joins. Then, no velocity in z axis is imposed in the slab coming from Autodyn.
upper row of nodes so that rotation is permitted around this
line (Figure 10). The semi-cylinders are modeled in steel with The same set up is used in Conwep resulting in the pressure
an elastic strength model. This way of defining the simply profile presented in Figure 12:
support is inspired in the work of [13].


Figure 10: Slab configuration for the simple support. (a) side
view. (b) top view
Figure 12: Reflected overpressure distribution on the slab
coming from Conwep
Furthermore, to avoid any non existing reflection, out flow
boundary condition is defined for every vertical plane of the
As the output from Conwep is the reflected overpressure, the
air mesh as well as in the horizontal plane above the slab.
atmospheric pressure still needs to be added. Table 3
compares the pressure distribution obtained with both
5 RESULTS methodologies.
First, an analysis about the pressure distribution throughout Table 3. Comparison between pressure values obtained in
the air mesh is shown below. Then, the structural response for Autodyn and Conwep (in kPa).
the blast load cases is presented subsequently by means of
damage contours along with the cracks pattern. Gauge
Autodyn Conwep
5.1 Pressure distribution 18 3991 3998
19 3444 3270
The present study only determines the response of the RC slab 20 2152 2019
submitted to direct loading, avoiding any non existing 21 1237 1101
reflection. This fact makes it possible to certify whether the
22 659 570
air mesh is correctly defined or not with Conwep [5], a widely
23 372 439
used empirical software for the calculation of effects of
24 260 341
weapons. Its reliability has been experimentally validated in
plenty of experiments. 25 178 305
Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Structural Dynamics, EURODYN 2011 3315

Thus, these results show good accuracy so that it is possible to

conclude that the air mesh is correctly defined.

5.2 Blast loading numerical assessment

The contour plot, which shows the damage zones of the slab
from 0 (no crack) to 1 (crack totally developed) is presented in
Figure 13.

Figure 14: Blast load experiment set up

Figure 15 shows the crack distribution of the specimen when

it is submitted to 1.5Kg C4 at 1m explosion scenario.

Middle of the slab


Figure 13: Damage contour plot for the case without fire. Figure 15: Crack distribution. (a) side view (b) top view

During the upwards movement, a main vertical crack is The observed dynamic behavior and the damage pattern are in
created in the middle of the slab where the maximum accordance with the numerical predictions. It is also observed
momentum takes place. This crack crosses the whole from the performed experiments that the slabs keep their load
thickness. Then a build up of stresses occurs towards the ends bearing capacity, which is important in view of further
of the specimen and further cracks are generated at 40cm progressive collapse investigations.
symmetrically positioned. The downwards movement is Fire experiment set up is shown in figure 16. A steel frame is
hindered by the lower reinforcement bars acting like cords. first positioned under the slab. On top of it, fire is created in a
Due to the excessive shear load created between the concrete metal recipient filled of 20L gasoil and 10L fuel. The fire
and the reinforcement, horizontal cracks are generated on the takes 20 min to burn out; this procedure is chosen in order to
concrete along the lower steel bars axis. keep temperatures below 500ºC and thus to avoid accidental
explosion of the detonator when the explosive charge is put in
place under the slab. Then, between fire and explosion tests,
5.3 Experimental validation temperature measurements are made on both lower surface of
Several experimental tests campaigns are developed for the the slab (by means of thermocamera) and inside the specimen
numerical validation; the analysis of the structural behavior of (by means of thermocouples). Thus, a complete temperature
hollow core slabs submitted to both blast load and fire in field is obtained for the whole slab, which will be used to
combination with blast load is performed. Figure 14 shows estimate the variation on compressive strength and Young
the set up for the blast load experiment. It consists of two modulus in the slab’s volume.
tunnel elements in reinforced concrete; the slab is located just
underneath them, fixed on metal supports at 2 meters height.
On top of these metal supports, under and on the slab, two
pieces of wood are used to allow small rotations of the slab
around the support line; this type of fixation is chosen in order
to reproduce simple supports at the ends of the slab element.
Explosive charges are suspended in the air underneath the
Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Structural Dynamics, EURODYN 2011 3316

Middle of the slab

Figure 18: Crack distribution on the fire + explosion test, side

Figure 16: Fire experiment set up view
Figure 17 shows the temperature distribution on the lower The crack pattern is very similar compared to one for the test
surface of the slab prior to the explosion measured with the in which only blast effect is analyzed. There is also a main
thermocamera from one side. vertical crack which crosses the whole thickness, split up into
two cracks following the lower reinforcement axis.

The structural response of the same RC slab in different blast
and fire+blast scenarios has been assessed in this paper. For
the specific loading and dimensions characteristics of such
problem, bending phenomenon is predominant in all of them.
For the structural blast response analysis, numerical
assessment for blast load analysis shows good correspondence
with respect to real test for crack-damage pattern distribution.
Regarding the combined effect of fire and blast, valuable
observations show that blast response of RC hollow core slabs
is not much affected by fire up to 400°C.
According to what has been concluded, the main actions to be
developed in the near future are:
Figure 17: Temperature distribution over the bottom surface
- based on collected data from the fire experiments, validation
of the slab
of the fire+blast numerical study is aimed to be developed.
- further assessment is needed in the investigation of effect of
Maximum temperature reaches 376ºC in the middle of the
fire in combination with blast load for higher range of
slab immediately after fire test. The preparation of the
temperatures (up to 800ºC).
explosion test takes two minutes during which there is an
inevitable cooling on the surface temperature due to air
convection; after this decrease and just prior to the explosion, ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
the maximum temperature in the middle of the slab is 320ºC.
Two thermocouples are placed inside the slab above the mid The authors thank the IWT-Vlaanderen for the financial
point. The first, placed at 2cm from the lower surface support of this project, the company ECHO NV for putting at
measured 364ºC and the second, at 4cm, measured 204ºC. their disposal the test slabs and the Test Centre Brasschaat of
Both measurements do not vary during the preparation of the the Belgian Defense Department for the support in the
explosion test. In such fire conditions the slab has a bending realization of the fire and blast tests.
deflection downwards of 5cm.
Spalling effect is not detected in none of the experiments, so it REFERENCES
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