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Concept: Concrete


This study was performed to evaluate shear bond strength (SBS) between three dual-cured resin cements and silica coated zirconia, before and after thermocycling treatment.

Concepts: Oxygen, Ceramic materials, Portland cement, Cement, Concrete


Calcium silicate hydrate (C-S-H) is the binder in concrete, the most used synthetic material in the world. The main weakness of concrete is the lack of elasticity and poor flexural strength considerably limiting its potential, making reinforcing steel constructions necessary. Although the properties of C-S-H could be significantly improved in organic hybrids, the full potential of this approach could not be reached because of the random C-S-H nanoplatelet structure. Taking inspiration from a sea urchin spine with highly ordered nanoparticles in the biomineral mesocrystal, we report a bioinspired route toward a C-S-H mesocrystal with highly aligned C-S-H nanoplatelets interspaced with a polymeric binder. A material with a bending strength similar to nacre is obtained, outperforming all C-S-H-based materials known to date. This strategy could greatly benefit future construction processes because fracture toughness and elasticity of brittle cementitious materials can be largely enhanced on the nanoscale.

Concepts: Materials science, Construction, Sea urchin, Concrete, Reinforced concrete, Rebar, Fireproofing, Prestressed concrete


The pyroclastic aggregate concrete of Trajan’s Markets (110 CE), now Museo Fori Imperiali in Rome, has absorbed energy from seismic ground shaking and long-term foundation settlement for nearly two millenia while remaining largely intact at the structural scale. The scientific basis of this exceptional service record is explored through computed tomography of fracture surfaces and synchroton X-ray microdiffraction analyses of a reproduction of the standardized hydrated lime-volcanic ash mortar that binds decimeter-sized tuff and brick aggregate in the conglomeratic concrete. The mortar reproduction gains fracture toughness over 180 d through progressive coalescence of calcium-aluminum-silicate-hydrate (C-A-S-H) cementing binder with Ca/(Si+Al) ≈ 0.8-0.9 and crystallization of strätlingite and siliceous hydrogarnet (katoite) at ≥90 d, after pozzolanic consumption of hydrated lime was complete. Platey strätlingite crystals toughen interfacial zones along scoria perimeters and impede macroscale propagation of crack segments. In the 1,900-y-old mortar, C-A-S-H has low Ca/(Si+Al) ≈ 0.45-0.75. Dense clusters of 2- to 30-µm strätlingite plates further reinforce interfacial zones, the weakest link of modern cement-based concrete, and the cementitious matrix. These crystals formed during long-term autogeneous reaction of dissolved calcite from lime and the alkali-rich scoriae groundmass, clay mineral (halloysite), and zeolite (phillipsite and chabazite) surface textures from the Pozzolane Rosse pyroclastic flow, erupted from the nearby Alban Hills volcano. The clast-supported conglomeratic fabric of the concrete presents further resistance to fracture propagation at the structural scale.

Concepts: Volcano, Portland cement, Cement, Mortar, Concrete, Roman Empire, Plaster, Brick


This paper presents the effect of desliming on the short- and long-term strength, stability and rheological properties of cemented paste backfill (CPB) produced from two different mill tailings. A 28-day unconfined compressive strength (UCS) of ≥1.0 MPa and the maintenance of stability over 224 days of curing were selected as the design criteria for the evaluation of paste backfill performance. Desliming induced some changes in the physical, chemical, mineralogical and rheological properties of the tailings. CPB mixture of the deslimed tailings achieved the required consistency at a lower water to cement ratio. The short-term UCSs of CPB samples of the deslimed tailings were found to be 30-100% higher than those samples of the reference tailings at all the binder dosages and curing times. CPB samples of the deslimed tailings achieved the long-term stability at relatively low binder dosages (e.g. 5 wt% c.f. ≥6.1% for the reference tailings). It was also estimated that desliming could allow a 13.4-23.1% reduction in the binder consumption depending apparently on the inherent characteristics of the tailings. Over the curing period, generation of sulphate and acid by the oxidation of pyrite present in the tailings was also monitored to correlate with the strength losses observed in the long term. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) and Mercury Intrusion Porosimetry (MIP) analyses provided an insight into the microstructure of CPB and the formation of secondary mineral phases (i.e. gypsum) confirming the beneficial effect of desliming. These findings suggest that desliming can be suitably exploited for CPB of sulphide-rich mill tailings to improve the strength and stability particularly in the long term and to reduce binder consumption.

Concepts: Time, Electron, Mineral, Materials science, Term, Scanning electron microscope, Compressive strength, Concrete


In this research, four types of waste seashells, including short-necked clam, green mussel, oyster, and cockle, were investigated experimentally to develop a cement product for masonry and plastering. The parameters studied included water demand, setting time, compressive strength, drying shrinkage and thermal conductivity of the mortars. These properties were compared with those of a control mortar that was made of a conventional Portland cement. The main parameter of this study was the proportion of ground seashells used as cement replacement (5%, 10%, 15%, or 20% by weight). Incorporation of ground seashells resulted in reduced water demand and extended setting times of the mortars, which are advantages for rendering and plastering in hot climates. All mortars containing ground seashells yielded adequate strength, less shrinkage with drying and lower thermal conductivity compared to the conventional cement. The results indicate that ground seashells can be applied as a cement replacement in mortar mixes and may improve the workability of rendering and plastering mortar.

Concepts: Compressive strength, Bivalvia, Physical compression, Portland cement, Cement, Mortar, Concrete, Stucco


Coal combustion residues from coal-fired power plants can be advantageous for use in building and construction materials. These by-products contain trace quantities of naturally occurring radionuclides from the uranium and thorium series, as well as other naturally occurring radionuclides such as K. Analysis was performed on samples of coal fly ash, flue gas desulfurization, gypsum and scrubber sludges, fixated scrubber sludges, and waste water filter cakes sampled from multiple coal-fired power plants in the United States. The radioactive content of U and Th decay series nuclides was determined using gamma photopeaks from progeny Pb at 352 keV and Tl at 583 keV, respectively; K specific activities were determined using the 1,461 keV photopeak. The samples were hermetically sealed to allow for secular equilibrium between the radium parents and the radon and subsequent progeny. Samples were analyzed in a common geometry using two high purity germanium photon detectors with low energy detection capabilities. The specific activities (Bq kg) were compared to results from literature studies including different building materials and fly ash specific activities. Fly ash from bituminous and subbituminous coals had U specific activities varying from 30-217 Bq kg (mean + 1 s.d. 119 ± 45 Bq kg) and 72-209 Bq kg (115 ± 40 Bq kg), respectively; Th specific activities from 10-120 Bq kg (73 ± 26 Bq kg) and 53-110 Bq kg (81 ± 18 Bq kg), respectively; and K specific activities from 177 to 928 Bq kg (569 ± 184 Bq kg) and 87-303 Bq kg (171 ± 69 Bq kg), respectively. Gypsum samples had U, Th, and K specific activities approximately one order of magnitude less than measured for fly ash samples.

Concepts: Radioactive decay, Coal, Fly ash, Pozzolana, Portland cement, Concrete, Flue gas, Decay chain


The toxicity characteristics leaching procedure (TCLP) is commonly used to assess the efficiency of solidification/stabilization (S/S) of pollutants in wastes, despite recent objections to this method. In this study, formulations of 7, 10, 15 and 20% (w/w) of calcium aluminate cement (CAC) and sulfate resistant Portland cement (SRC) were used for S/S of soil from brownfield contaminated with 43,149, 10,115, 7631, 6130, 90, 82mgkg(-1) of Zn, Pb, Cu, As, Cd and Ni, respectively. CAC produced S/S soil monoliths of higher mechanical strength (up to 7.65Nmm(-2)). Mass-transfer analysis indicated surface wash-off as a mechanism of toxic elements release, and equilibrium leaching as a crucial parameter of S/S efficiency assessment. In the expected range of field soil pH after S/S (pH 7-9), the TCLP gave markedly different results than the multi-point pH equilibrium leaching method (using nine targeted pH values): up to 2953-, 94-, 483-, 1.3-, 27- and 1.5-times more Zn, Pb, Cu, As, Cd and Ni, respectively, was determined in the TCLP leachate. S/S with CAC reduced leachability of toxic elements more effectively than SRC. Our results indicate that, under given field conditions, the TCLP significantly underrates the efficiency of S/S of contaminated soil with cementitious binders.

Concepts: Environmental remediation, PH, Soil contamination, Fly ash, Portland cement, Cement, Concrete, Calcium aluminate cements


Strength and other mechanical properties of cement and concrete rely upon the formation of calcium-silicate-hydrates (C-S-H) during cement hydration. Controlling structure and properties of the C-S-H phase is a challenge, due to the complexity of this hydration product and of the mechanisms that drive its precipitation from the ionic solution upon dissolution of cement grains in water. Departing from traditional models mostly focused on length scales above the micrometer, recent research addressed the molecular structure of C-S-H. However, small-angle neutron scattering, electron-microscopy imaging, and nanoindentation experiments suggest that its mesoscale organization, extending over hundreds of nanometers, may be more important. Here we unveil the C-S-H mesoscale texture, a crucial step to connect the fundamental scales to the macroscale of engineering properties. We use simulations that combine information of the nanoscale building units of C-S-H and their effective interactions, obtained from atomistic simulations and experiments, into a statistical physics framework for aggregating nanoparticles. We compute small-angle scattering intensities, pore size distributions, specific surface area, local densities, indentation modulus, and hardness of the material, providing quantitative understanding of different experimental investigations. Our results provide insight into how the heterogeneities developed during the early stages of hydration persist in the structure of C-S-H and impact the mechanical performance of the hardened cement paste. Unraveling such links in cement hydrates can be groundbreaking and controlling them can be the key to smarter mix designs of cementitious materials.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Water, Orders of magnitude, Scattering, Materials science, Specific surface area, BET theory, Concrete


Some Chilean copper slag dumps from the nineteenth century still remain, without a proposed use that encourages recycling and reduces environmental impact. In this paper, the copper slag abandoned in landfills is proposed as a new building material. The slags studied were taken from Playa Negra and Púquios dumps, both located in the region of Atacama in northern Chile. Pozzolanic activity in lime and Portland cement systems, as well as the alkali activation in pastes with copper slag cured at different temperatures, was studied. The reactivity of the slag was measured using thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), electrical conductivity and pH in aqueous suspension and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). Furthermore, copper slag-Portland cement mortars with the substitution of 25% (by weight) of cement by copper slag and alkali-activated slag mortars cured at 20 and 65 °C were made, to determine the compressive strength. The results indicate that the ancient copper slags studied have interesting binding properties for the construction sector.

Concepts: Electron, Spectroscopy, Gold, Scanning electron microscope, Fourier transform spectroscopy, Portland cement, Cement, Concrete


Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is used to evaluate deterioration of reinforced concrete bridge decks based on measuring signal attenuation from embedded rebar. The existing methods for obtaining deterioration maps from GPR data often require manual interaction and offsite processing. In this paper, a novel algorithm is presented for automated rebar detection and analysis. We test the process with comprehensive measurements obtained using a novel state-of-the-art robotic bridge inspection system equipped with GPR sensors. The algorithm achieves robust performance by integrating machine learning classification using image-based gradient features and robust curve fitting of the rebar hyperbolic signature. The approach avoids edge detection, thresholding, and template matching that require manual tuning and are known to perform poorly in the presence of noise and outliers. The detected hyperbolic signatures of rebars within the bridge deck are used to generate deterioration maps of the bridge deck. The results of the rebar region detector are compared quantitatively with several methods of image-based classification and a significant performance advantage is demonstrated. High rates of accuracy are reported on real data that includes thousands of individual hyperbolic rebar signatures from three real bridge decks.

Concepts: Concrete, Reinforced concrete, Rebar