Effect of Sulfates in Concrete on Their Resistance to Freezing and Thawing


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Title: Effect of Sulfates in Concrete on Their Resistance to Freezing and Thawing

Author(s): R. J. Detwiler and L. J. Powers-Couche

Publication: Special Publication

Volume: 177


Appears on pages(s): 219-248

Keywords: air voids; deterioration; ettringite; freeze-thaw durability; gypsum; prism; sulfate

Date: 1/1/1999

This project originated because of premature deterioration of concrete pavements in Wisconsin. The deterioration took the form of a “V” at ,the joints of the pavements. A number of hypotheses had been put forward by various investigators of the damaged concrete. These included filling of the air voids by ettringite, which was thought to reduce the ability of the air void system to protect the concrete against frost damage. The purpose of the work reported here was to recreate the damage mechanism in the laboratory and investigate the sequence of events leading to the deterioration of the concrete. Three cements produced from the same raw materials were used in the project. Two were commercial Type I and Type II cements; the third was made by intergrinding the Type I cement with additional gypsum to increase the amount of available sulfate in the concrete. Concrete prisms 3 x 3 x ll-l/ 4 inches (75 x 75 x 285 mm) were subjected to the conditions specified by ASTM C 666 Procedure A, except that 3% NaCl solutions either with or without added gypsum (to simulate road salt) were used instead of water. The freeze/thaw cycles were interrupted over the weekends, when the specimens were allowed to dry out in laboratory air. The specimens were tested to destruction in most cases. Companion specimens were examined petrographically during the course of the test period in order to establish a sequence of ettringite deposition and damage. Damage was measured by mass loss, length change, and relative dynamic modulus. The findings show that the ettringite deposited in the air voids did not cause cracking, nor did it contribute to the propagation of existing cracks. Rather, it appears to have been opportunistic: cracks due to frost damage created space for ettringite crystals to grow.