Durability of Concrete--Fifty Years of Progress?


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Title: Durability of Concrete--Fifty Years of Progress?

Author(s): P. K. Mehta

Publication: Special Publication

Volume: 126


Appears on pages(s): 1-32

Keywords: alkali-aggregate reactions; chemical attack; corrosion; deterioration; durability; freeze-thaw durability; microcracking; permeability; predictability tests; reinforcing steel; Materials Research

Date: 8/1/1991

With special attention to durability of concrete, the author reviewed the proceedings of the cement chemistry congresses as well as other symposia held during the last 50 years by ACI, ASTM, and RILEM. What is presented here is not a comprehensive progress report on the subject of concrete durability but rather a state-of-the-art report from the author's perspective. It seems that, in spite of some important discoveries valuable from the standpoint of durability enhancement, today more concrete structures seem to suffer from lack of durability than was the case 50 years ago. In order of decreasing importance, the major causes concrete deterioration today are as follows: corrosion of reinforcing steel, frost action in cold climates, and physico-chemical effects in aggressive environments. There is a general agreement that the permeability of concrete, rather than normal variations in the composition of portland cement, is the key to all durability problems. There is also a general agreement that rapid growth of the concrete construction industry after the 1940s led to the production and use of wet concrete mixtures, which are able to meet the strength requirement via a change in the composition of portland cement, but were unsatisfactory from the standpoint of corrosion of reinforcing steel, resistance to freezing and thawing cycles, and chemical attacks. A rise in chemical aggressivity of the environment through the increasing use of deicer salts, and an increase in land, water, and air pollution, has also contributed to concrete durability problems. Although significant advancements have been made in regard to understanding and controlling various physical and chemical phenomena responsible for concrete deterioration, the trend towards less durable concrete structures has yet to be reversed. One of the reasons is that most of the information from tests on durability is in fragmentary form and cannot be easily synthesized into a complete understanding of actual, long-term, effects on field concrete. An over-reliance on test methods and specifications dealing with different aspects of durability has therefore become a part of the problem since accelerated laboratory tests do not correlate well with behavior of concrete structures in practice.