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One Definition of Portland Cement Concrete

Portland cement concrete (PCC) is a heterogeneous system of

solid, discrete, gradiently sized, inorganic mineral aggregates, usually plutonic or sedimentary-calcareous in origin, embedded in a matrix compounded of synthesized polybasic alkaline and alkaloidal silicates held in aqueous solution and co-precipitate dispersion with other amphoteric oxides, this matrix being originally capable of progressive dissolution, hydration, reprecipitation, gelation and solidification through a continuous and co-existent series of crystalline, amorphous, colloidal and cryptocrystalline states and ultimately subject to thermoallotriomorphic alteration, the system when first conjoined being plastic during which stage it is impressed to a predetermined form into which it finally consolidates, thus providing a structure relatively impermeable and with useful capacity to transmit tensile, compressive, and shear stresses.
(source unknown)

A Real Definition of PCC

A mixture of:
Portland Cement Fine Aggregate Coarse Aggregate Water Air Cement and water combine, changing from a moist, plastic consistency to a strong, durable rocklike construction material by means of a chemical reaction called hydration

Further Defined
Concrete exists in three
Plastic Curing Hardened

Mix Design
Combination of materials to provide the most
economical mixture to meet the performance characteristics suitable for the application

Developed in laboratory - produced in a batch


Mix proportions will typically vary over a range

for a given job
Required strength and exposure conditions

Mix consistency must be ensured to guarantee

concrete performance

Mixture Design Concepts

Cement content
Sacks/yd3 or lbs/yd3 To a point, increasing cement content increases strength and durability Too much cement is uneconomical and potentially detrimental

Amount of water Proper selection of aggregate and grading Admixtures?

Water-to-Cement Ratio
The ratio of water-to-cement, or w/c, is the single
most important parameter with regards to concrete quality

Theoretically, about 0.22 to 0.25 is required for

complete hydration
Practically, the useful limit is around 0.33

Reducing the water for a given amount of cement

will move the cement particles closer together, which in turn densifies the hydrated cement paste
This increases strength and reduces permeability

It also makes the concrete more difficult to work In combination, the w/c and degree of hydration
control many of the properties of the hardened concrete

Voids in Hydrated Cement

Concrete strength, durability, and volume
stability is greatly influenced by voids in the hydrated cement paste Two types of voids are formed in hydrated cement paste
Gel pores Capillary pores

Concrete also commonly contains

entrained air and entrapped air

Voids in Hydrated Cement Paste

Gel Pores
Space between layers in C-S-H with thickness between 0.5 and 2.5 nm Includes interlayer spaces, micropores, and small
isolated capillary pores

Can contribute 28% of paste porosity Little impact on strength and permeability Can influence shrinkage and creep

Voids in Hydrated Cement Paste

Capillary Voids
Depend on initial separation of cement particles, which is controlled by the w/c
It is estimated that 1 cm3 of anhydrous portland cement
requires 2 cm3 of space to accommodate the hydration products Space not taken up by cement or hydration products is capillary porosity

On the order of 10 to 50 nm, although larger for higher w/c (3 to 5 mm) Larger voids affect strength and permeability, whereas smaller voids impact shrinkage

w/c = 0.5

Source: Mindess, Young, and Darwin, 2004

Source: Mindess, Young, and Darwin, 2004

Source: Mindess, Young, and Darwin, 2004

High Permeability (Capillary Pores Interconnected)

Capillary Pores

C-S-H Framework


Low-Permeability Capillary Pores Segmented and Only Partially Connected

Capillary Pores

C-S-H Framework

Dimensional Range of Solids and Voids in Hydrated Cement Paste

Source: Mehta and Monteiro, 1993

Source: Mindess, Young, and Darwin, 2004

Source: Mindess, Young, and Darwin, 2004

Source: Mindess, Young, and Darwin, 2004

Interfacial Transition Zone

Zone between the aggregate and bulk paste Has a major impact on the strength and permeability of the

The interfacial zone is 10 to 50 mm in thickness Generally weaker than either the paste or aggregate due to
locally high w/c and the wall effect (packing problems) in some cases predominately large crystals of calcium hydroxide and ettringite are oriented perpendicular to aggregate surface

Greater porosity and few unhydrated cement grains

Microcracking commonly exists in transition zone

Results in shear-bond failure and interconnected
macroporosity, which influences permeability

Modification of transition zone is key to improving concrete

Entrained Air
Provides the path for
water to migrate from larger voids to smaller voids Water in smallest capillary/gel pores wont freeze For adequate protection
6-8% air by volume Entrained air spacing factor = 0.2mm

Entrained Air Measurement

Proper air entrainment is one of
the most critical aspects of producing durable concrete Air entrainment affects
Strength Freeze-Thaw durability Permeability Scaling Resistance Workability

Air content must be measured

accurately at the job site

Air-Void System
ASTM C 231 and C 173

Stereo Microscope ASTM C 457

Curing Concrete
Extremely important
Concrete will not achieve its potential strength unless it is properly cured Concrete will crack if not properly cured

Curing should be started immediately after

final set Curing includes providing both moisture and temperature

Concrete must not dry out, especially at a
young age
Preferably water is applied after the concrete has set

Steam curing applies both heat and

moisture, accelerating hydration Often, waterproof barriers are used to hold mix water innot as good as wet curing

Concrete is inherently durable, having a
history of exceptional long-term performance In some instances, the structures service life has been adversely affected by the concretes inability to maintain its integrity in the environment in which it was placed These distress manifestations are categorized as materials-related distress (MRD)

What is Materials-Related Distress?

MRD is commonly associated with the
durability of the concrete Durability is not an intrinsic material property
Durability cannot be measured Concrete that is durable in one application may rapidly deteriorate if placed in another application

It is not related to loading, although loading can

exacerbate the distress

Common Types of MRD

Physical Mechanisms
Freeze-thaw Deterioration of Hardened Cement Paste Deicer Scaling/Deterioration Freeze-Thaw Deterioration of Aggregate

Chemical Mechanisms
Alkali-Aggregate Reactivity Alkali-Silica and Alkali-Carbonate Reactivity Sulfate Attack External and Internal Sulfate Attack Corrosion of Embedded Steel

Important Considerations
The concrete constituents, proportions,
and construction all influence MRD Water is needed for deleterious expansion to occur Severe environments (e.g. freezing and thawing, deicer applications, high sulfate soils, etc.) make it worse Strength does not equal durability

Concrete is an immensely complex material that
will perform to its potential only if treated properly during the entire construction phase
Mix design and proportioning Transporting Placing and consolidating Finishing and curing

As billions are spent annually on concrete

construction, the most sophisticated testing is used to ensure quality

ASTM C 143-00 Standard Test Method for Slump of Hydraulic Cement Concrete