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Russian Scientists Develop a New Concrete Technology for Construction in the Arctic

June 26th, 2020 South Ural State University
Russian Scientists Develop a New Concrete Technology for Construction in the Arctic
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At South Ural State University, researchers have found a way to increase the service life and strength of concrete. The research can advance construction in the Arctic, Siberia and the Far East, areas with harsh climate conditions that require ultra-durable concrete. It was possible to obtain a material with such properties due to a change in the structure of the hydrated phases of cement stone. An article on this study is published in the journal Case Studies in Construction Materials.

The durability of reinforced concrete products

Concrete and reinforced concrete have been used in construction since the mid-19th century, and specialists regularly improve the properties of these materials. They are reliable, safe for humans, and have an almost unlimited raw material base.

At the same time, experts note a significant drawback of reinforced concrete structures: They are short-lived in harsh climatic conditions. Concrete wrapping the reinforcement breaks during cyclic freezing. This is due to the formation of ice in the pores of the building material, as well as mechanical stress due to temperature change, leaching of the portlandite or aging of the cement gel.

Scientists all over the world are working to increase the durability of reinforced concrete structures. SUSU researchers are also interested in this problem. A study of the durability of concrete at the Department of Building Materials and Products of the Institute of Architecture and Construction has been conducted since the 1990s, and in 2018, the master's project was launched.

The new study shows the need to account for the stability of the hydrated phases of cement stone during cyclic freezing and thawing. "While ensuring the stability of the hydrated phases of cement stone, the mechanical properties of concrete, and consequently, its durability, remain unchanged. We proposed to evaluate durability in temporary indicators of service life depending on the operating conditions of reinforced concrete structures and the modifiers used," SUSU Senior Lecturer Kirill Shuldyakov said.

Russian Scientists Develop a New Concrete Technology for Construction in the Arctic
Credit: SUSU

Low-temperature test

The study was conducted in the laboratory of SUSU at a temperature of -50 degrees C in a 5% sodium chloride solution. It should be noted that foreign colleagues were surprised by this approach since they have the most severe test conditions of -20 degrees. However, these are the conditions recreated in the laboratory of SUSU that correspond to the national standard. This allows researchers to create a material that can withstand operational impacts, and the environments of the Arctic, Siberia and the Far East.

Highly durable concrete with a water/cement ratio of less than 0.35 was subjected to cyclic freezing and thawing. The stability of the material structure was evaluated both before cyclic impacts and after a different number of them. As a result, the scientists concluded that the frost resistance grade of concrete can change four to five times with a constant water-cement ratio, but with the introduction of various modifiers that affect the composition of hydrated phases. A stable hydrosilicate gel was formed when the amount of portlandite in the cement stone was not more than 5%. This was ensured by the introduction of optimal dosages of modern modifying additives.

"The mechanism of cement gel crystallization is associated with an increase in its basicity upon absorption of lime by the initially formed calcium hydrosilicates. The introduction of pozzolana (a mineral additive that enhances the strength and durability of concrete) reduces the concentration of lime, causes the active polymerization of silicon-oxygen tetrahedra, especially during cyclic freezing, which contributes to the formation of stable colloidal dispersed calcium hydrosilicates," Kirill Shuldyakov explained.

The research of SUSU scientists can help in the construction of structures in harsh conditions, for example, the Power of Siberia gas pipeline, and in the development of the Arctic region.

But scientists do not intend to stop in their work. The next step is the study of diffusion permeability of concrete. According to the standard GOST 31384-2017, this characteristic determines the service life of reinforced concrete structures.

Research in the field of materials science is one of the three strategic directions for the development of scientific and educational activities of South Ural State University along with IT and the environment.

SUSU is a participant in the 5–100 Project, intended to increase the competitiveness of Russian universities among the world's leading research and academic centers.

More information:
Kirill Shuldyakov et al. Stable microstructure of hardened cement paste – A guarantee of the durability of concrete, Case Studies in Construction Materials (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.cscm.2020.e00351

Provided by South Ural State University

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