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LE-3 Aggregate


After you have learned this element, you should be able to:
- explain the function of the aggregate in concrete;
- describe various sources and types of aggregates;
- explain the precautions to be taken in the selection, use and storage of the aggregates.
The aggregate forms the skeleton of the concrete. Various sizes of aggregate are required to make a strong concrete. Stone grains
up to 5 mm (usually sand) are used as fine aggregate, while stone grains bigger than 5 mm (gravel, crushed stone) constitute the
coarse aggregate.
Aggregate can be obtained from various sources. Natural aggregates for direct use without any mechanical treatment can be
extracted from riverbeds, gravel pits, sea and the dunes. These aggregates have round and polished particles.
Before using aggregates for concrete manufacture it is advisable to carry out tests to ensure that the particles are of sufficient
strength and are not prone to erode or deteriorate. Sands from gneiss or mica schist and soft lime stones are examples of
unsuitable aggregate material for concrete manufacture.
The porosity percentage of aggregate should be very small and the materials should be neither brittle nor soft. For large works it is
common practice to produce aggregates by crushing hard rock, such as basalt, quartzite, granite, limestone and porphyry.
Aggregate particles produced in this manner are usually sharp edged and angular.
In principle it is advantageous to use natural rather than crushed aggregate for concrete work as the round shape of natural
aggregate increases the workability of the mix. Moreover, the particles have a smaller surface area so that less cement and water
are needed to obtain the required strengths.
However, a well graded, well compacted concrete mix with angular aggregate particles also produces an excellent concrete,
because the particles lock together to form a strong skeleton.
If the aggregate contains a large percentage of flat saucer-shaped particles it should be rejected as far more cement and water
would be required to obtain acceptable results.
It is necessary to wash the aggregate if it contains impurities, as these negatively influence the strength of the finished concrete.
Clay impurities, especially, cause a high level of shrinkage, and prevent the concrete-steel adhesion in reinforced concrete. Dust
and fine crushing residues reduce the mechanical strength and chemical resistance. To keep the aggregate clean, they should be
stored on clean hard ground (preferably a concrete floor) away from trees. When possible, aggregates should be stored under
shelter to avoid changes of the moisture content.
Aggregates of different sizes should be stored separately. Too often, heaps of different-sized gravels are dumped next to each other
with no separation in between. The heaps overflowing into each other cause the different sizes to get mixed. As a result it will be
very difficult to obtain a mixture containing the right quantities of different-sized aggregate