The long-term failure mechanisms of alkali-activated slag mortar exposed to wet-dry cycles of sodium sulphate

Qing Li, Xinyuan Li, Kai Yang, Xiaohong Zhu, Juan Pablo Gevaudan, Changhui Yang, Muhammed Basheer

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Abstract

This study investigates the long-term (570 days) performance of alkali-activated slag (AAS) mortar exposed to combined wet-dry cycles and sodium sulphate solutions (i.e. 5 wt% and 10 wt%). Physical and mechanical characteristics of AAS mortars (i.e. visual appearance, compressive/flexural strength, mass change, capillary porosity, water sorptivity) as well as mineralogical and chemical parameters were determined using XRD, FTIR, DSC and BSE. Findings were compared to Portland cement (PC) and high sulphate resistant (HSR) samples. Results indicate that AAS mortars perform better than PC and HSR samples with minimal changes to compressive strength at 570 days (1.7% increasement). The main failure mode for AAS mortar was external spalling, which could be due to the crystallisation/dissolving pressure of sodium sulphate. Moreover, the results indicate key differences in the deterioration mechanism of AAS. Unreacted slag, exposed during sodium sulphate attack under wet-dry cycles, can continue to react in sodium sulphate to form silicon-rich gels. The formation of highly siliceous gel regions has beneficial impacts, such as the increase in flexural strength. While no calcium sulphate phases were detected via XRD and FTIR after 570 days of exposure, it is evident that the molecular changes in the microstructure reveal depolymerisation and enhanced formation of Si–O phases after long-term sodium sulphate exposure. These results are important to understand the long-term degradation mechanisms of AAS materials exposed to sodium sulphate under wet-dry cycles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103893
JournalCement and Concrete Composites
Volume116
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Building and Construction
  • Materials Science(all)

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