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Construction and Building Materials 148 (2017) 833–845

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Influence of fibers on drying shrinkage in restrained concrete

Negin Yousefieh a, Alireza Joshaghani b,⇑, Erfan Hajibandeh c, Mohammad Shekarchi d
Construction Material Institute (CMI), University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran
Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University, TX, United States
Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran
Construction Materials Institute (CMI), Department of Civil Engineering, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

h i g h l i g h t s

 Fibers do not have any considerable effect on compressive strength of the concretes.
 The drying shrinkage strength was highly dependent on fibers’ modules of elasticity.
 The physical properties of fibers have direct effects on reducing the cracking width.
 The steel fibers showed the best performance due to their hook-shaped tail.
 Polypropylene fibers also showed better performance in preventing crack development.

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

Article history: Drying shrinkage cracks mainly start to develop at the exposed surface of the concrete elements due to
Received 22 October 2016 the shrinkage strain caused by self-desiccation. For the purpose of controlling drying shrinkage cracks
Received in revised form 3 May 2017 additions and fibers are used in fresh concretes in order to provide high early age mechanical capacity
Accepted 8 May 2017
for moderating the crack development. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the performance of using
different fibers in reducing the drying shrinkage and cracking under restrained conditions. To investigate
the effectiveness of using both polymeric and metal fibers in concrete, three different types of fibers,
including polypropylene fiber, polyolefin fibers, and steel fiber were used in this study. The maximum
drying shrinkage strength was highly dependent on fibers’ module of elasticity. The average length crack-
Drying ing and its pattern in fiber reinforced concretes were different than control concrete. The physical prop-
Concrete erties of fibers have direct effects on reducing the cracking width.
Fibers Ó 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Image processing

1. Introduction (temperature, relative moisture, wind velocity) [2]. As a result,

concrete elements with highly exposed surfaces (like slabs and
Thin concrete structural elements with the higher surface to prefabricated panels) are highly susceptible to adverse structural
volume ratios, such as slabs, pavements, bridge decks, concrete deteriorations in harsh environments, which can also be exacer-
industrial floor, tunnel concrete covers and concrete surface bated by the drying wind [3]. However, it can be observed from
restorations, are generally susceptible to drying shrinkage in the former studies that an addition of sufficient fibers would result
regions with warm and bluster weather conditions. In normal con- in a great reduction of cracking followed by less shrinkage in
cretes with a water-cement ratio of higher than 0.45, drying concretes [4].
shrinkage is considered the most significant reason for cracking In controlling drying shrinkage cracks, two methods are recom-
at early ages [1]. Drying shrinkage starts after moist curing, mended: measuring the water loss from the exposed surfaces of
depending on concrete properties (mixture design, concrete the elements and using connecting concrete components, which
placement and curing methods), shape and ambient conditions can lead to restraining cracks propagation. The first method
involves monitoring the curing conditions and the water content
controlling procedure; it also uses the shrinkage reducing additives
⇑ Corresponding author. in order to reduce tensile stresses. The second method consists of
E-mail address: (A. Joshaghani).
0950-0618/Ó 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
834 N. Yousefieh et al. / Construction and Building Materials 148 (2017) 833–845

using concrete additives and fibers in fresh concretes. The purpose environment with lower humidity, shrinkage would take place
is to provide high early age mechanical capacity for moderating the due to water loss by evaporation from its large capillary pores,
crack development in a way that the presence of fibers would which is followed by a reduction in volume [22,23]. In high-
cause more cracks but with small dimensions. It may transfer ten- strength concretes with low moisture content, drying and autoge-
sile stresses by reducing stress concentration [5]. nous shrinkages are considered dangerous threats due to their
The orientation of cracks in standard concretes does not follow cracking potential. In normal concretes with general strength
any certain direction, and cracks only extend vertically through (lower than 34 MPa at the age of 28 days), autogenous shrinkage
each other from place to place. However, three types of strength is less important than drying shrinkage [24]. The cracking in the
(compressive, shearing and tensile) can be considered for crack concrete might be induced due to imposed forces of shrinkage
development. Hence, by an addition of fibers into concrete regard- caused by internal or external restraints under the certain bound-
less of other constituent components, two main parallel and per- ary conditions. Since concrete structures are mainly restrained by
pendicular orientations can be observed between fibers and the ground, foundation, bars, or other structural members, several
cracks. In the vertical case, fibers generally act as a stitch between tensile stresses would emerge in concrete, which can cause crack-
the two faces of the crack, transferring the load by controlling high ing by exceeding the concrete tensile strength value [25]. Thin
deflections of shrinkage, and increasing the tensile, and bending members with large surfaces are susceptible to this type of crack-
strength of concrete due to their high adhesive properties [6]. ing. The cracking time is mainly related to amount of the concrete
desiccation, which is directly dependent on environmental condi-
tions [26,27]. Mostly, cracking starts to take place on the surface
2. Literature review of the concrete because drying starts at the surface and continues
deeper [28]. Cracks which occur after hardening are mainly
Fiber reinforced concrete is a composite material in which ten- induced from drying shrinkage.
sile and bending strength would increase greatly by adding rein- A group of researchers studied the shrinkage of cement mortar
forcing fibers to the concrete mix. This composite mixture has matrices reinforced with cellulose fibers, short sisal and coconut
integrity and appropriate cohesion, which allows the concrete to fibers. The influence of curing method, mix proportions and partial
act as a ductile material to be used for producing full curvy resis- replacement of ordinary Portland cement (OPC) by ground granu-
tance surfaces. One of fiber reinforced concrete’s benefits is great lated blast-furnace slag and silica fume on the drying shrinkage
energy absorption capacity. History of this technology includes of VFRC was also investigated. Free plastic shrinkage is signifi-
the application of straw in building constructions [7,8]. Fiber rein- cantly reduced by the inclusion of 0.2% volume fraction of sisal
forced concrete can be introduced as the advanced model of this fibers in cement mortar. Also, fiber delays the initial cracking for
technology in which the straw and clay are both substituted by restrained plastic shrinkage and effectively controls crack develop-
natural or synthetic fibers and cement, respectively. Nowadays, ment at the early age of composite [29].
the use of glass fiber, polypropylene, steel, carbon, and the produc- Surface layer drying and concrete reduction in volume and
tion of different types of composite has become possible to utilize strength against volumetric changes of the lower layers would
in several industrial applications, and implementing them in the result in cracking in the surfaces. Generally, initial cracks appear
developed world is highly appealing to the civil construction sec- in the corner of slabs without any specific patterns due to the fact
tors [9–11]. Fiber reinforced concretes have sufficient properties, that drying happens in three directions. The width of this crack is
such as high ductility, high strength, great energy absorption dependent on the amount of drying in concrete, the geometry of
capacity and resistance against cracking, all of which make them the member and also the distance between external restraints.
appropriate for numerous applications [12]. For instance, in the For instance, in slabs located on the ground with a longer dimen-
construction of industrial floors, this type of concrete can be used sion than other ones, some cracks take place mainly in the middle,
instead of general reinforced concrete, since it is considered one and some other ones occur diagonally in the corners. One or two-
of the best materials used in resistant buildings that are resistant way slabs also follow the same trend. Hence, in the corner of the
against impact loads such as shelters and storage warehouses for opening parts of the slabs, cracking is observed, too [30,31].
explosives [13]. Hence, it can be properly used in the airport run- The main reason for drying shrinkage is water evaporation from
ways construction. There are also some other applications for this capillary pores existing in hydrated cement paste through the sur-
type of concrete such as producing prefabricated segments like face of the concrete, which is exposed to an environment with low
sunshade panels or shotcrete on curved surfaces like tunnel walls relative humidity. Available water in the capillary pores, which is
[14]. formally called free water, would be held by capillary forces as a
Generally, in structural applications, steel fibers can be used function of pore size in diameter. In fact, the smaller the pores in
supplementary to steel bars by inhibiting the cracks, improving diameter, the more powerful the capillary force would be. By the
concrete resistance to impact loads, fatigue, shrinkage and thermal time the tensile stress caused by capillary force in hydrated cement
stresses [15]. High-strength concrete technology can be considered paste exceeds the local tensile strength, cracking would happen
a breakthrough in concrete structures construction. In hardened [32].
concrete, strength and durability are regarded as the major factors. Some studies have been conducted to evaluate the effects of
Some studies reported that by increasing the compressive strength, adding fibers on drying shrinkage of concrete. The addition of steel
the concrete becomes more brittle [16,17]. While, groups of fibers into concrete was evaluated under restraint condition to
researchers indicated that the addition of fibers might significantly simulate the role of steel reinforcement and to obtain the initial
enhance the mechanical properties of concrete such as ductility cracking time. Based on the results, some useful prediction models
and residual load-bearing capacity (toughness) [18–20]. The addi- were proposed [17]. It has been proven that the addition of steel
tion of steel fibers up to 1 percent (by volume) into plain concrete fibers up to 3 Vol.% can gradually improve the ultimate load and
was reported to be useful for enhancing the splitting tensile elastic modulus of ultra-high performance fiber reinforced con-
strength up to 79% and increasing the average residual strength crete. It has also been observed that the steel fibers can only
[21]. decrease the early shrinkage and cracking due to the bridging
In dry weather conditions, while there is a difference between effect, and it has nothing important to do with concrete cracking
relative humidity in the concrete and ambient air, drying shrinkage after hardening [33,34]. A few studied concerned with the effects
would take place. While the saturated mixture is exposed to an of using polypropylene fiber on drying shrinkage of concrete
N. Yousefieh et al. / Construction and Building Materials 148 (2017) 833–845 835

Table 1 in this study. The physical characteristics of these fibers are pre-
Chemical composition content of cement (%). sented in Table 2.
Chemical component Cement (%)
SiO2 22.25
AL2O3 3.38 3.1.3. Aggregate
Fe2O3 3.56 The maximum size of aggregates and grading are considered to
CaO 62.82 affect the ratio of fine to coarse aggregates, shrinkage, porosity,
MgO 3.55
compaction ability, workability, and the amount of water and
SO3 1.71
Na2O 0.22 cement of concrete mixtures. The change in grading can directly
K2O 0.64 influence the uniformity of concrete.
Loss of ignition (LOI) 1.87 Fine aggregate grading. The most appropriate grading for

[35,36]. The results showed that the polypropylene fiber can the fine aggregates is dependent on the maximum size of coarse
reduce the autogenous and total shrinkage of concrete remarkably. aggregates, cement content, type, and purpose of the mixture.
Some researchers tried to investigate the effects of using different For satisfying the workability purposes, in mixes with lower
fibers with various aspect ratios on the cracking properties [37]. cement content or coarse aggregates with small sizes, the best type
The cracks’ characteristics of fiber reinforced concrete including of grading for fine aggregates is the one that its passing sieve per-
the width, length and area of the cracks are some useful informa- centages are close to the maximums suggested by the standard. In
tion that can be used in the evaluation of concrete shrinkage and this study, the grading of the fine aggregates provided from Met-
effectiveness of fibers addition. As a result, in this study, the effects rosak company was performed using the procedure described in
of using three type of fibers including polypropylene, polyolefin ASTM C 136 [39] and compared with the ranges suggested in ASTM
and steel on the early age cracking and shrinkage of ordinary con- C 33 standard. Table 3 and Fig. 1 show the comparison between
crete were examined using image processing and under the sieved fine aggregates and ASTM C33 [40].
restrained and unrestrained conditions to obtain some valuable
conclusions. Coarse aggregate grading and maximum aggregate size. The
grading tests of coarse aggregates bought from Metosak company
3. Experimental program was carried on based on procedures described in ASTM C 136,
and the results were evaluated by comparing them with ASTM C
3.1. Materials 33 requirements [39,40]. Tables 4 and 5 present the grading of
two type of coarse aggregates including pea gravel and elongated
3.1.1. Cementitious materials gravel, respectively. Figs. 2 and 3 depict the gradation of pea gravel
Fulfilling ASTM C150 requirements, Portland cement type 2 was and elongated gravel, respectively.
used in this study for all concrete mixtures [38]. The chemical
characteristics of this cement are shown in Table 1.
3.1.4. Water and superplasticizer
Drinking water was employed in all concrete mixtures for cast-
3.1.2. Fibers ing and curing purposes. A polycarboxylate based superplasticizer
In order to investigate the effectiveness of using both polymeric called P10 from ShimiFarco brand was used to achieve the prefer-
and metal fibers in concrete, three different types of fibers includ- able flow. It used as a green liquid with pH of 7 ± 1 and specific
ing polypropylene fiber, polyolefin fibers and steel fiber were used gravity of 1.1 ± 0.02. The maximum chloride limited to 500 ppm.

Table 2
Physical characteristics of employed fibers.

Fiber type Length (mm) Diameter (mm) Length/Diameter ratio Density (gr/cm3) Tensile strength (MPa) Modulus of elasticity (GPa)
Polypropylene fiber 12 0.022 545 0.91 300–400 3.5–4.8
Polyolefin fiber 48 1.07 45 0.9–0.92 550 6
Steel fiber 35 0.55 64 7.8 1100 210

Table 3
Sieved fine aggregates in accordance with ASTM C 33.

Sieve Size Square sieve Mass Percent retained Cumulative ASTM C 33 Standard
opening retained (%)
Mass passing (g) Retained (%) Passing (%) Minimum passing (%) Maximum passing (%)
(mm) (g)
9.5 mm (No. 3.8) 0.0 499.6 0 0.0 100 – 100 100
4.75 mm (No. 4) 68.3 431.3 14 13.7 86 100 95 100
2.36 mm (No. 8) 121.1 310.2 38 24.2 62 72 80 100
1.18 mm (No. 16) 91.8 218.4 56 18.4 44 51 50 85
0.6 mm (No. 30) 90.7 127.7 74 18.2 26 30 25 60
0.3 mm (No. 50) 46.5 81.2 84 9.3 16.3 18.8 5 30
0.15 mm (No. 100) 64.7 16.5 97 13.0 3.3 3.8 0 10
0.75 mm (No. 200) 13.5 3.0 99 2.7 0.6 0.7 – –
Pan 3.0 0.0 100 0.6 0.0 0.0 – –
836 N. Yousefieh et al. / Construction and Building Materials 148 (2017) 833–845

Fig. 1. Sieved fine aggregates in accordance with ASTM C 33.

Table 4
Sieved pea gravel in accordance with ASTM C 33.

Sieve Size Square sieve opening (mm) Mass retained (g) Percent retained (%) Cumulative
Mass passing (g) Retained (%) Passing (%)
1½ 37.5 0.0 0.0 2499.6 0 100
1 25.0 0.0 0.0 2499.6 0 100
¾ 19.0 0.0 0.0 2499.6 0 100
½ 12.50 17.7 0.7 2481.9 1 99
3/8 9.50 646.3 25.9 1835.6 27 73
4 4.75 1796.4 71.9 39.2 98 1.6
8 2.36 38.1 1.5 1.1 100 0.0
Pan 0 1.1 0.0 0.0 100 0.0

Table 5
Sieved elongated gravel in accordance with ASTM C 33.

Sieve Size Square sieve opening (mm) Mass retained (g) Percent retained (%) Cumulative
Mass passing (g) Retained (%) Passing (%)
1½ 37.5 0.0 0.0 2499.7 0 100
1 25.0 0.0 0.0 2499.7 0 100
¾ 19.0 151.5 6.1 2348.2 6 94
½ 12.50 1315.9 52.6 1032.3 59 41
3/8 9.50 740.9 29.6 291.4 88 12
4 4.75 290.1 11.6 1.3 100 0.1
8 2.36 0.0 0.0 1.3 100 0.1
Pan 0 1.3 0.1 0.0 100 0.0

3.2. Procedures they should first be mixed with water and then added to the mix-
ture. Then, the fibers should be mixed with water and added pro-
As the purpose of this study is to investigate the drying shrink- gressively to the mixture for 20 s.
age cracking of concrete, a self-compacting concrete mix design Several specimens in different kinds and sizes were used, such
was employed. Four concrete mixtures were designed by the con- as forty-eight 150  300 mm cylindrical specimens, sixteen
stant water/binder ratio of 0.37 including one control concrete and 75  75  285 mm prismatic specimens, and twelve ring model
three fiber-reinforced concrete specimens with fiber contents of molds. The specimens were cast in two layers, and each layer
0.2 percent (by volume). Table 6 presents the proportion and fur- was vibrated to remove the entrapped air voids using the vibration
ther details of all mixtures. table. The slump flow test was carried out to evaluate flowability
The preparation stage included the following steps: the initial and the horizontal free flow (deformability) of SCC [41–43]. The
mixing of coarse and fine aggregates with 25% of the mixture’s diameter of the spreading concrete was measured in two perpen-
water for one minute by mechanical mixer, the addition of cement dicular directions and recorded as the slump flow. The average of
and the remaining mixture’s water, mechanically mix for one min- diameters in two perpendicular directions should be larger than
ute, the addition of fibers, and mechanically mix for two minutes 600 mm for a plain SCC. However, the final diameters of the con-
for proper dispersion of fibers. It is important to know that in order crete were less than 600 mm inasmuch as the mechanical perfor-
to prevent the fibers to form a ball-shaped in the concrete mixture, mance of the fresh concrete depends very much on fiber types
N. Yousefieh et al. / Construction and Building Materials 148 (2017) 833–845 837

Fig. 2. Sieved pea gravel in accordance with ASTM C 33.

Fig. 3. Sieved elongated gravel in accordance with ASTM C 33.

Table 6
Concrete mixture properties.

Mixture Fiber type Fiber content Fiber density Water/binder ratio Cement Water Sand Fine gravel Coarse gravel Compressive
abbreviation (Vol%) (kg/m3) (kg/m3) (kg) (kg/m3) (kg/m3) (kg/m3) strength(MPa)
PC – – – 0.37 460 207.2 1007 387 155 42.2
PFRC Polypropylene 0.2 0.91 0.37 460 207.2 1007 387 155 46.5
POFRC Polyolefin 0.2 0.91 0.37 460 207.2 1007 387 155 46.1
SFRC Steel 0.2 7.8 0.37 460 207.2 1007 387 155 46.1

and dispersion. Therefore, the flowability of mixtures were not as aspect ratio, volume percentage and size and quantity of coarse
high as conventional SCC without fibers and it was deemed suffi- aggregate intensify the difficulties and balling tendency. The fiber
cient for practical implementation with a slight vibration. Similar contents in excess of 0.2% by volume are difficult to mix [45,46].
results were reported by Liao et al. [44]. Then, the specimens were
kept under the wet blanket for 24 h and then demolded and cured
in lime-saturated water at 23 ± 2 °C. The curing time for each spec- 3.3. Testing methods
imen was in accordance with its testing standard.
The volume fractions of fiber were chosen based on mixture In this study, compressive strength test and unrestrained and
characteristics. Mixing of fiber reinforced concrete needs careful restrained drying shrinkage were conducted, which is elaborated
conditions to avoid balling of fibers, segregation and in general on the following paragraphs with much detail. The used specimen
the difficulty of mixing the materials uniformly. Increase in the with regarding dimensions and standard are tabulated in Table 7.
838 N. Yousefieh et al. / Construction and Building Materials 148 (2017) 833–845

Table 7 at ages of 4, 7, 14, 28 days and after 8, 16, 32 and 64 weeks [48].
Type and number of specimens prepared and tested. Before the concrete mixture, all the components’ temperature were
Test Specimen Dimensions (mm) Standard adjusted to 18–24 °C. The specimens were cured in water
Compressive strength Cylinder 150  300 ASTM C39 (calcium-hydroxide-saturated) after being demolded. Afterwards,
Unrestrained drying Prism 75  75  285 ASTM C157 the first comparator reading was conducted. The further curing
shrinkage procedures were continued by placing the specimens in air storage
Restrained drying Ring model 330 ± 3.3 (internal) ASTM C1581 at the temperature of 23 ± 2 °C and the relative humidity of 50 ± 4%
shrinkage 406 ± 3 mm (external)
152 ± 6 mm (height)
for up to the age of 28 days. At each measurement age, drying
shrinkage of a specimen was calculated for the same side and
direction as the other ages to reduce the error of warping. In the
results part, unrestrained drying shrinkage versus time is com-
pared for different fiber types with the control sample.
3.3.1. Compressive strength
The compressive strength tests were carried out on three 3.3.3. Restrained drying shrinkage
150  300 mm cylindrical specimens of every mixture according The restrained drying shrinkage test was conducted in order to
to ASTM C39 at the age of 28 days [47]. The average of three com- investigate effects of addition of fibers on drying shrinkage crack-
pressive strength values is reported for each mixture. ing under restrained conditions. According to ASTM C1581, two
ring type specimens should be cast using the steel ring model mold
3.3.2. Unrestrained drying shrinkage of 330 ± 3.3 mm internal diameter and 406 ± 3 mm external diam-
The free drying shrinkage test was carried out to monitor the eter with 152 ± 6 mm height, as shown in Fig. 4 [49]. In this study,
drying shrinkage of concrete mixtures. According to the ASTM on account of observing no cracking in several specimens, which
C157 standard, for each mixture, 75  75  285 mm prismatic were cast by usage of the aforementioned mold dimensions, test
specimens were used to examine the free drying shrinkage rate specimens’ thickness was reduced from 380 mm to 300 mm.

Fig. 4. Details of ring mold listed in the standard.

Fig. 5. Steps of preparing the restrained drying shrinkage specimen and installing strain gauges.
N. Yousefieh et al. / Construction and Building Materials 148 (2017) 833–845 839

A) Control concrete B) Fiber reinforced concrete A) Control concrete B) Fiber reinforced concrete
Fig. 6. Crack width in control concrete and fiber reinforced concrete samples after 30 days drying. Fig. 7. Pictures divided into three frames longitudinally.

A) the gray image as input for B) binary image made from cracked C) cracks width measurement by drawing
processing area perpendicular lines to the length of crack

Fig. 8. Image processing method for FRC in control sample.

In accordance with ASTM C1581, after casting, specimens were 3.3.4. Image processing
cured at a temperature of 23 ± 2 °C and relative humidity of For measuring the width of drying shrinkage cracks, some anal-
50 ± 4% by using wet burlap covered with polyethylene film meet- ysis was performed on digital photos of cracks. After 30 days of
ing the requirements of Specification C 171 [49,50]. Hence, the top drying, using a 12 MP camera, digital photos were taken from the
surface of the specimens were sealed via caulking sealant in order cracked surface of specimens from an equal and constant distance.
to dry the specimens from the outer circumferential surface only. The photos format should be converted from RGB to BW format.
The first strain reading has been made after the sealing process Lastly, the width of cracks was calculated and reported for each
using four strain gauges bonded at mid-height of the interior sur- specimen.
face of the steel ring. After 24 h of curing, the exterior steel ring Every image was converted to the 8-bit BW format. Afterward,
was removed and the strain readings were continued up to 30 days each picture was divided into 12 equal sections and introduced to
with a reading interval of 30 min. Finally, the age of initial cracking, written code in MATLAB environment for image processing. This
dimensional specifications of the cracks, the total number of cracks code produced a binary image of cracks from the information,
and the maximum strain was reported for each specimen. All the including the scale coefficient and crack boundary. After that, some
steps of this process are depicted in Fig. 5. lines with the step of 10 pixels were drawn perpendicularly to the
840 N. Yousefieh et al. / Construction and Building Materials 148 (2017) 833–845

A) Crack width histogram B) Normal distribution curve

Fig. 9. Image processing for fiber reinforced concrete in control sample.

50 46.3
44.6 45.6
45 41.4 42.7
Compressive Strength (Mpa)

40 36.1 36.0 35.9
35 32.3
3 30.1
30 27.7 27.3 27.2
14 20
28 15
Control Steel fiber Polypropylene fiber Polyolefin fiber

Fig. 10. Results of control and reinforced-concrete compressive strength until the age of 28 days.

length of cracks. Afterward, by calculating the number of pixels in bution curve in control sample were found. These results are
the intersection area of these lines and using the scaling coefficient, shown in Fig. 9.
the width of cracks were measured. The cracking area was also
measured by multiplying the number of pixels in the shaping
and cracking area and the inverse of the scale coefficient.
4.2. Compressive strength

4. Results and discussion Fig. 10 shows the compressive strength results of the control
and fiber-reinforced specimens at ages of 3, 7, 14 and 28 days.
4.1. Image processing These results corresponded to the average of three specimens
tested for each mix at every age. The incorporation of the fiber in
Cracking patterns in both control specimen and concrete with concrete mixtures did not increase compressive strength consider-
fiber are shown in Fig. 6. The difference in cracking width is obvi- ably (less than 9%). This negligible enhancement of compressive
ous between these two kinds of restrained concrete. In order to strength is due to the absorption of energy by fibers under tensile
quantify measuring the width cracking, each picture was divided stress, which transferred through them for preventing the concrete
into three frames longitudinally, as shown in Fig. 7. To rebuild from rupture. In fact, the fibers are activated after the first cracking,
the entire image, the part of images that had overlap were cut while the effects before the initial cracking are rather low. The
and connected to each other along the length of the crack. observed results are compatible with several previous studies
Each frame was used in gray color as an input for image pro- [51]. Based on statistical analysis and one-way ANOVA method,
cessing. A binary image was captured from the real frame. This when almost all significance factors are greater than 0.05 at early
image showed the crack with white color on a black background. ages (the mean difference is significant at 0.05 level), the lower sig-
Then, to measure the crack width, perpendicular lines were drawn nificant factors related to the age of 28 days are representative of
along the cracks, as shown in Fig. 8. So, this image processing was the ameliorative role of adding fibers in increasing the compressive
able to calculate crack width values in small increments. strength of plain concrete. At the age of 28 days, the significance
By analyzing the captured image with MATLAB software, the factor for polyolefin, polypropylene and steel fiber was 0, 0.001
average and maximum crack width, histogram, and normal distri- and 0.006, respectively.
N. Yousefieh et al. / Construction and Building Materials 148 (2017) 833–845 841

Time (hr)
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800

Steel strain (μm/m)



20 (t=108 h) Second Crack 1-Control

25 2-Control

1-Polypropylene fiber
30 (t=66 h) First Crack
2-Polypropylene fiber

Fig. 11a. The steel ring strain-time diagram of polypropylene-reinforced specimens.

Time (hr)
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800
Steel strain (μm/m)

25 (t=109 h) Second Crack
30 1-Control

35 2-Control

40 (t=78 h) First Crack 11-Polyolefin

- fiber

45 2- Polyolefin fiber

Fig. 11b. The steel ring strain-time diagram for polyolefin -reinforced specimens.

Time (hr)
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800

Steel strain (μm/m)



40 (t=150 h) Second Crack

50 11-Control

60 2-Control

70 11-Steel
- fiber
(t=114 h) First Crack
80 2- Steel fiber

Fig. 11c. The steel ring strain-time diagram of steel-reinforced specimens.

842 N. Yousefieh et al. / Construction and Building Materials 148 (2017) 833–845

Fig. 12. The act of fibers as consolidator bridges between two cracked sections.

Table 8
Cracks’ specifications in the control and fiber-reinforced concrete samples.

Characteristic Control Steel fiber Polypropylene fiber Polyolefin fiber

1 2 1 2 1 2
Initial cracking time (hour) 48 98 114 66 72 75 78
Maximum strain (microstrain) 22.44 72.2 72.2 30.02 30.01 35.65 40.49
Average crack width (mm) 0.51 0.17 0.13 0.32 0.38 0.27 0.31
Maximum crack width (mm) 3.012 0.853 0.916 1.856 1.829 1.369 1.251
Total cracks area (mm2) 55.61 40.71 42.82 51.52 53.84 47.39 48.41
Total cracks length (mm) 27.57 33.65 34.02 28.36 27.89 30.02 30.48
Average crack width reduction (%) – 68 75 37 28 48 41
Total cracks area reduction (%) – 26 23 7 4 14 1

4.3. Restrained drying shrinkage The maximum strain of the steel fiber reinforced concrete was
equal to 72 microstrain, which was higher than of two other fibers.
4.3.1. Strain-time diagrams The great ductility behavior of steel fibers can be explained by their
In this test, steel rings act as passive restraints and engender ten- high module of elasticity (nearly 210 GPa), which causes an
sile stresses in the ring type specimens due to their autogenous increase of the tensile capacity of concrete and finally more stress
shrinkage, or drying shrinkage. If these stresses exceed tensile bearing capacity before cracking. The maximum shrinkage strain
strengths of the concrete specimens, they would increase crack values of polyolefin and polypropylene fiber reinforced concretes
widths. The obtained results show that the control specimens gener- was 38 and 30 microstrain, respectively, which can be considered
ally encounter one or two wide cracks while the fiber-reinforced as approximately equal values due to two fibers nearly equal mod-
specimens faced only some hairline cracks with small widths. ules of elasticity. Polypropylene fibers had shorter lengths than
Fig. 11 depicts the steel ring strain under the time for control and that of polyolefin fibers, which resulted in shorter development
polypropylene, polyolefin and steel fiber-reinforcement concrete length and lesser ameliorative effects on concrete ductility. Fur-
specimens with fiber contents of 0.2 percent (by volume). The thermore, longer fiber lengths can result in better adherence
results indicate that, by the time the first cracks formed, the strain between fibers and matrix. Based on one-way ANOVA method,
value considerably dropped due to the release of potential stress the significance factors for the maximum shrinkage strains
in concrete. In the control concrete sample, the stress released obtained by the addition of steel, polyolefin and polypropylene
immediately after the first cracking and caused the strain value of fibers into plain samples, are 0, 0.51 and 0.004, respectively. As a
zero. On the other hand, in fiber-reinforced concrete, the fibers acted matter of fact, by counting the significance level equal to 0.05,
as stitches between two cracked sections by increasing the tensile the steel and polyolefin fibers increased the tensile strength to a
capacity and providing more time for stress bearing (Fig. 12). Hence, greater extent in comparison with polypropylene fiber.
the addition of fibers led to more gradual reductions of strain to zero
and led to the initial cracking time. The steel fibers show the best 4.3.2. Restrained drying shrinkage crack specifications
performance in deferring the initial cracking due to the high module Table 8 indicates the physical characteristics of the control and
of elasticity and tensile strength, which is compatible with the pre- fiber-reinforced concrete cracks. The results show that the steel-
vious results in this area [52]. The polypropylene and polyolefin fiber reinforced concrete samples have the greatest performance in pre-
indicate the same performance in this case. venting the cracks from widening and decreased the average width
N. Yousefieh et al. / Construction and Building Materials 148 (2017) 833–845 843

Polyolefin fiber Polypropylene fiber Steel fiber Control

Fig. 13. Cracking patterns in concrete specimens.

-1200 The crack width relates directly to the permeability of con-

cretes followed by corrosive attacks of aggressive ions. A
Shrinkage Strain (μm/m)

-1000 decrease in crack width can result in enhancement of durability

and mechanical properties of concrete structures. In this regard,
-800 researchers have found that the crack width can lead to an
intensification of water penetration into high strength concrete
-600 and cement paste up to ten times higher than regular intensity
[53]. There are several crack patterns to evaluate transport prop-
-400 erties, such as, crack density, width, and orientation. The crack
Steel fiber density is defined as the length of crack per unit area. Some
other studies professed that with an increase of crack density
-200 Polyolefin fiber
from 0.25 to 0.45 cm/cm2, the water penetration into concretes
Polypropylene can progressively increase up to 10 times. The results indicate
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 that the steel, polyolefin and polypropylene fiber reinforced con-
cretes decreased cracking area by 72, 45 and 26 percent com-
Time (day)
pared to control concrete.
Fig. 14. Unrestrained drying shrinkage average strain-time diagram for fiber
reinforced concretes.
4.3.3. Crack length
Table 8 indicates the length of drying shrinkage cracks in the
value by 72% in comparison with control concrete. This is because control and fiber reinforced concretes. Fibers of steel, polyolefin
of high tensile strength, a module of elasticity, and the hook- and polypropylene developed the cracking length by an increase
shaped tail of steel fibers, which resulted in the adequate adher- of 19, 9 and 2%, respectively. As it was mentioned before, this is
ence in the matrix and concrete tensile strain increase. Hence, because the addition of fibers generally would lead to hairline
the results show that polyolefin and polypropylene fiber reinforced cracks along the exterior surfaces of the ring shape specimens.
concretes reduced the average width value by 45% and 32% in com- In this regard, sometimes, the number of cracks exceeding 3 or
parison with control concrete. Due to serrulation of polyolefin 4 appeared mainly along the ring diameter. According to obtained
fibers’ surface and longer length than of polypropylene, polyolefin results, on account of the weakness of polypropylene fibers in the
fibers resulted in better adherence between fibers and matrix, and dispersion of the cracks, the length of cracking in concrete contain-
prevented crack development far better. ing these fibers seems to be same as control specimens. Cracking
844 N. Yousefieh et al. / Construction and Building Materials 148 (2017) 833–845


Shrinkage Strain ( m/m)






Restrained 0
Unrestrained Polyolefin fiber
Polypropylene fiber Steel fiber Control
Fig. 15. Maximum unrestrained and restrained drying shrinkage of control and fiber reinforced concretes.

patterns in concrete with fibers and without fibers are shown in crete samples with a fiber content of 0.1 percent (by volume),
Fig. 13. the maximum restrained drying shrinkage strains was mea-
sured equal to 72, 40 and 30 micro strain for steel, polyolefin
4.4. Unrestrained drying shrinkage and polypropylene fibers, respectively.
- The physical properties of fibers have direct effects on reducing
Diagrams in Fig. 14 present the drying shrinkage strain under the cracking width. The steel fibers showed the best perfor-
the time for control and fiber reinforced specimens. The compar- mance due to their hook-shaped tail which contributed to bet-
ison between the performance of the fibers shows the highest con- ter adherence between fibers and matrix. Polypropylene fibers
tribution of steel fibers in reducing the shrinkage strain by 29% at also showed better performance in preventing crack develop-
the age of 28 days. Following the trend by lower impact, the poly- ment due to their longer length and surface serrulation. In con-
olefin and polypropylene fibers decreased the final drying shrink- crete samples with steel, polyolefin and polypropylene fiber
age strain by percentages of 13 and 12, respectively. As it was content of 0.1 percent (by volume), the average width of cracks
expected, polypropylene fibers had the lowest impact on reducing was calculated to be 72, 45 and 32 percent lower than plain
the shrinkage strain due to their short length and low module of concrete, respectively. By adding the fibers into plain concrete,
elasticity. The better performance of the steel fiber than polypropy- the cracking was reported to be reduced from 4 to 26 percent.
lene fiber in reducing the shrinkage strain has been observed pre- - The average length of cracking in fiber reinforced concretes was
viously [12]. more than in the control concrete. This can be explained by the
general behavior of fibers in producing hairline cracks. As it was
4.5. Comparison between unrestrained and restrained shrinkage observed, specimens containing 0.1 percent steel, polyolefin
and polypropylene fiber (by volume), respectively increased
Generally, drying shrinkage in normal concretes is about 350– the length of cracking by 19, 9 and 2 percent compared with
700 microstrain which can take higher values by increasing the the plain concrete.
cement content and higher w/c ratio. Hence, with regard to this - The addition of fibers not only decreased the drying shrinkage
experience, concretes with lower drying shrinkage of 400 micros- cracking, but also deferred the initial cracking time in a way
train can be categorized as concretes with low drying shrinkage that the first crack appears after 144 h in steel fiber reinforced
magnitude. Based on the aforementioned discussion, it can be con- concrete instead of 48 h in control concrete.
cluded that addition of fibers to normal concrete can produce low - The cracking pattern in fiber reinforced specimens was different
drying shrinkage concrete [54]. Fig. 15 represents the comparison from control concrete cracks since they were so small and
between maximum strain values of unrestrained and restrained hairline.
shrinkage tests. - The comparison between unrestrained and restrained shrinkage
In concretes containing steel, polypropylene and polyolefin, the tests show that the lower the value of unrestrained drying
restrained shrinkage values reduced by percentages of 90, 96 and shrinkage, the more restrained drying shrinkage strain before
95 in comparison with unrestrained shrinkage ones, respectively. initial cracking would be.
This ratio is about 97% for control concrete. As a result, the more
impact of fibers on drying shrinkage, the less this ratio would be.
5. Conclusion
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