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Reactive Powder Concrete

Heat Evolution
Compatibility
Issues
Rheology
Pumping of
Concrete

Introduction
Reactive Powder Concrete (RPC) is a developing composite material that
will allow the concrete industry to optimize material use, generate
economic benefits, and build structures that are strong, durable, and
sensitive to environment. A comparison of the physical, mechanical, and
durability properties of RPC and HPC (High Performance Concrete)
shows that RPC possesses better strength (both compressive and flexural)
and lower permeability compared to HPC. This page reviews the
available literature on RPC, and also presents the results of laboratory
investigations comparing RPC with HPC. Specific benefits and potential
applications of RPC have also been described.

Multiaxial
Loading
Constitutive
Relationships
Performance
Specs
Special
Concretes
Quality Control
Issues
NDE of
Concrete

High-Performance Concrete (HPC) is not just a simple mixture of


cement, water, and aggregates. It contains mineral components and
chemical admixtures having very specific characteristics, which give
specific properties to the concrete. The development of HPC results from
the materialization of a new science of concrete, a new science of
admixtures and the use of advanced scientific equipments to monitor
concrete microstructure.
HPC has achieved the maximum compressive strength in its existing form
of microstructure. However, at such a level of strength, the coarse
aggregate becomes the weakest link in concrete. In order to increase the
compressive strength of concrete even further, the only way is to remove
the coarse aggregate. This philosophy has been employed in Reactive
Powder Concrete (RPC)1.
Reactive Powder Concrete (RPC) was developed in France in the early
1990s and the worlds first Reactive Powder Concrete structure, the
Sherbrooke Bridge in Canada, was erected in July 1997. Reactive Powder
Concrete (RPC) is an ultra high-strength and high ductility cementitious
composite with advanced mechanical and physical properties. It consists
of a special concrete where the microstructure is optimized by precise
gradation of all particles in the mix to yield maximum density. It uses
extensively the pozzolanic properties of highly refined silica fume and
optimization of the Portland cement chemistry to produce the highest
strength hydrates1.
The concept of reactive powder concrete was first developed by P.

Richard and M. Cheyrezy and RPC was first produced in the early 1990s
by researchers at Bouygues laboratory in France2. A field application of
RPC was done on the Pedestrian/Bikeway Bridge in the city of
Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada3. RPC was nominated for the 1999 Nova
Awards from the Construction Innovation Forum. RPC has been used
successfully for isolation and containment of nuclear wastes in Europe
due to its excellent impermeability4.
The requirements for HPC used for the nuclear waste containment
structures of Indian Nuclear Power Plants are normal compressive
strength, moderate E value, uniform density, good workability, and high
durability5. There is a need to evaluate RPC regarding its strength and
durability to suggest its use for nuclear waste containment structures in
Indian context.
Composition of Reactive Powder Concrete
RPC is composed of very fine powders (cement, sand, quartz powder and
silica fume), steel fibres (optional) and superplasticizer. The
superplasticizer, used at its optimal dosage, decreases the water to cement
ratio (w/c) while improving the workability of the concrete. A very dense
matrix is achieved by optimizing the granular packing of the dry fine
powders. This compactness gives RPC ultra-high strength and
durability6. Reactive Powder Concretes have compressive strengths
ranging from 200 MPa to 800 MPa.
Richard and Cheyrezy1 indicate the following principles for developing
RPC:
1. Elimination of coarse aggregates for enhancement of homogeneity
2. Utilization of the pozzolanic properties of silica fume
3. Optimization of the granular mixture for the enhancement of
compacted density
4. The optimal usage of superplasticizer to reduce w/c and improve
workability
5. Application of pressure (before and during setting) to improve
compaction
6. Post-set heat-treatment for the enhancement of the microstructure

7. Addition of small-sized steel fibres to improve ductility


Table 1 lists salient properties of RPC, along with suggestions on how to
achieve them. Table 2 describes the different ingredients of RPC and
their selection parameters. The mixture design of RPC primarily involves
the creation of a dense granular skeleton. Optimization of the granular
mixture can be achieved either by the use of packing models7 or by
particle size distribution software, such as LISA8 [developed by Elkem
ASA Materials]. For RPC mixture design an experimental method has
been preferred thus far. Table 3 presents various mixture proportions for
RPC obtained from available literature1,3,9,10.
Table 1: Properties of RPC enhancing its homogeneity and strength
Property of
Recommended
Description
RPC
Values
Coarse
aggregates
are replaced
by fine sand,
Reduction
with a
Maximum size
in
reduction in of fine sand is
aggregate the size of
600 m
size
the coarsest
aggregate by
a factor of
about 50.
Improved
mechanical
Youngs
Enhanced
properties of modulus values
mechanical
the paste by in 50 GPa 75
properties
the addition Gpa range
of silica fume
Volume of the
Reduction
paste is at least
in
20% greater
Limitation of
aggregate
than the voids
sand content
to matrix
index of nonratio
compacted
sand.

Types of
failure
eliminated

Mechanical,
Chemical &
Thermomechanical

Disturbance
of the
mechanical
stress field.

By any
external
source (e.g.,
formwork).

Table 2: Selection Parameters for RPC components

Selection
Particl
Function
Types
Parameters
e Size
Good
150
hardness
Give
m
Readily
Natural,
Sand
strength, to
available
Crushed
Aggregat 600
and low
e
m
cost.
C3 S : 60%; Binding
C2S : 22%; material, 1 m
OPC,
C3A : 3.8%; Productio to
Cement
Medium
C4AF:
n of
100
fineness
7.4%.
primary m
(optimum) hydrates
Max.
reactivity 5 m
Quartz
fineness
during
to Crystalline
Powder
heat- 25 m
treating
Filling
the voids,
Procured
Enhance
from
Very less rheology, 0.1 m
Ferrosilico
Silica fume quantity of Productio to
n industry
impurities
n of
1 m
(highly
secondar
refined)
y
hydrates
L : 13
25
mm
Good
Improve
Steel fibres
: Straight
aspect ratio ductility
0.15
0.2
mm
Less
Superplasticiz retarding Reduce
Polyacryla
_
er
characterist w/c
te based
ic
Components

Table 3: RPC mixture designs from literature


P. Richard and M. S. A.
V.
S.
1
Cheyrezy
Bouygue Matt Staquet

s3

10
e9
[1999
[1995]
[1997]
[2000]
]
Non
12 mm 25 mm Fibre
Fibred
fibred fibres fibres
d

Portland
1 1 1 1
Cement
Silica fume 0.25 0.23 0.25 0.23
Sand
1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1
Quartz
-- 0.39 -- 0.39
Powder
Superplastici 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01
zer
6 9 6 9
0.17 0.17
Steel fibre -- -5 5
Water
0.15 0.17 0.17 0.19
Compacting
-- -- -- -pressure
Heat
20 90 20 90
treatment
C C C C
temperature

0.324 0.325 0.324


1.423 1.43 1.43
0.296

0.3

0.3

0.027 0.018 0.021


0.268 0.275 0.218
0.282

0.2

0.23

--

--

--

90C

90C 90C

The major parameter that decides the quality of the mixture is its water
demand (quantity of water for minimum flow of concrete). In fact, the
voids index of the mixture is related to the sum of water demand and
entrapped air. After selecting a mixture design according to minimum
water demand, optimum water content is analyzed using the parameter
relative density (d0/dS). Here d0 and dS represent the density of the
concrete and the compacted density of the mixture (no water or air)
respectively. Relative density indicates the level of packing of the concrete
and its maximum value is one. For RPC, the mixture design should be
such that the packing density is maximized.
Microstructure enhancement of RPC is done by heat curing. Heat curing
is performed by simply heating (normally at 90C) the concrete at normal
pressure after it has set properly. This considerably accelerates the
pozzolanic reaction, while modifying the microstructure of the hydrates
that have formed1. Pre-setting pressurization has also been suggested as a
means of achieving high strength1.
The high strength of RPC makes it highly brittle. Steel fibres are

generally added to RPC to enhance its ductility. Straight steel fibres used
typically are about 13 mm long, with a diameter of 0.15 mm. The fibres
are introduced into the mixture at a ratio of between 1.5 and 3% by
volume1. The cost-effective optimal dosage is equivalent to a ratio of 2%
by volume, or about 155 kg/m3.
Mechanical Performance and Durability of RPC
The RPC family includes two types of concrete, designated RPC 200 and
RPC 800, which offer interesting implicational possibilities in different
areas. Mechanical properties for the two types of RPC are given in Table
4. The high flexural strength of RPC is due to the addition of steel fibres.
Table 5 shows typical mechanical properties of RPC compared to a
conventional HPC of compressive strength 80 MPa11. As fracture
toughness, which is a measure of energy absorbed per unit volume of
material to fracture, is higher for RPC, it exhibits high ductility. Apart
from their exceptional mechanical properties, RPCs have an ultra-dense
microstructure, giving advantageous waterproofing and durability
characteristics. These materials can therefore be used for industrial and
nuclear waste storage facilities1.
RPC has ultra-high durability characteristics resulting from its extremely
low porosity, low permeability, limited shrinkage and increased corrosion
resistance. In comparison to HPC, there is no penetration of liquid and/or
gas through RPC4. The characteristics of RPC given in Table 6, enable its
use in chemically aggressive environments and where physical wear
greatly limits the life of other concretes12.
Table 4: Comparison of RPC 200 and RPC 800
RPC 200
None

RPC 800
Pre-setting pressurization
50 MPa
250 to
Heat-treating
20 to 90C
400C
Compressive strength (using 170 to 230 490 to 680
quartz sand)
MPa
MPa
Compressive strength (using
650 to 810
-steel aggregate)
MPa
30 to 60 45 to 141
Flexural strength
MPa
MPa
Table 5: Comparison of HPC (80 MPa) and RPC 2009

Property

HPC (80 MPa)

Compressive strength
Flexural strength
Modulus of Elasticity
Fracture Toughness

80 MPa
7 MPa
40 GPa
<10 J/m

RPC 200
200 MPa
40 MPa
60 GPa
30*10 J/m

Table 6: Durability of RPC Compared to HPC10


Abrasive Wear
Water Absorption
Rate of Corrosion
Chloride ions diffusion

2.5 times lower


7 times lower
8 times lower
25 times lower

Limitations of RPC
In a typical RPC mixture design, the least costly components of
conventional concrete are basically eliminated or replaced by more
expensive elements. The fine sand used in RPC becomes equivalent to the
coarse aggregate of conventional concrete, the Portland cement plays the
role of the fine aggregate and the silica fume that of the cement. The
mineral component optimization alone results in a substantial increase in
cost over and above that of conventional concrete (5 to 10 times higher
than HPC). RPC should be used in areas where substantial weight
savings can be realized and where some of the remarkable characteristics
of the material can be fully utilized2. Owing to its high durability, RPC
can even replace steel in compression members where durability issues
are at stake (e.g. in marine condition). Since RPC is in its developing
stage, the long-term properties are not known.
Experimental study at IIT Madras
Materials Used
The materials used for the study, their IS specifications and properties
have been presented in Table 7.
Mixture Design of RPC and HPC

Considerable numbers of trial mixtures were prepared to obtain


good RPC and HPC mixture proportions.

Particle size optimization software, LISA8 [developed by Elkem


ASA Materials] was used for the preparation of RPC and HPC

trial mixtures.

Various mixture proportions obtained from the available


literature were also studied.

The selection of best mixture proportions was on the basis of good


workability and ideal mixing time.

Finalized mixture proportions of RPC and HPC are shown in


Table 8.
Table 7: Materials used in the study and their properties
Sl.
No.
1

2
3
4

Sample
Cement, OPC,
53-grade
[IS. 12269
1987]
Micro Silica
[ASTM C1240
97b]
Quartz Powder
Standard sand,
grade-1
[IS. 650 1991]
Standard sand,
grade-2
[IS. 650 1991]
Standard sand,
grade-3
[IS. 650 1991]
Steel fibres (30
mm)
[ASTM A 820
96]
Steel fibres (36
mm)
[ASTM A 820
96]
20 mm Aggregate
[IS. 383 1970]

Specific
Gravity

Particle size range

3.15

31 m 7.5 m

2.2

5.3 m 1.8 m

2.7

5.3 m 1.3 m

2.65

2.36 mm 0.6 mm

2.65

0.6 mm 0.3 mm

2.65

0.5 mm 0.15 mm

7.1

length: 30 mm &
dia: 0.4 mm

7.1

length: 36 mm &
dia: 0.5 mm

2.78

25 mm 10 mm

10 mm Aggregate
[IS. 383 1970]
River Sand
11
[IS. 383 1970]

10

2.78
2.61

12.5 mm 4.75
mm
2.36 mm 0.15
mm

Table 8: Mixture Proportions of RPC and HPC


Materials

Mixture Proportions
RPCHPCRPC
HPC
F*
F**
1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00
0.25 0.25 0.12 0.12
0.31 0.31
1.09 1.09
0.58 0.58
2.40 2.40
1.40 1.40
1.50 1.50
0.20
0.20

Cement
Silica fume
Quartz powder
Standard sand grade 2
Standard sand grade 3
River Sand
20 mm aggregate
10 mm aggregate
30 mm steel fibres
36 mm steel fibres
Admixture (Polyacrylate
0.03
based)
Water
0.25
* Fibre RPC

0.03 0.023 0.023


0.25

0.4

0.4

** Fibre HPC

Workability and density were recorded for the fresh concrete mixtures.
Some RPC specimens were heat cured by heating in a water bath at 90C
after setting until the time of testing. Specimens of RPC and HPC were
also cured in water at room temperature.
The performance of RPC and HPC was monitored over time with respect
to the following parameters:
Compressive Strength (as per IS 51613 on 5 cm cubes for RPC, 10 cm
cubes for HPC), Flexural Strength (as per IS 516 on 4 x 4 x 16 cm prisms
for RPC, 10 x 10 x 50 cm beams for HPC),
Water Absorption (on 15 cm cubes for both RPC and HPC),
Non destructive water permeability test using Germann Instruments (on
15 cm cubes for both RPC and HPC),
Resistance to Chloride ions Penetration test (on discs of diameter 10 cm
and length 5 cm as per ASTM C 120214).

Results
Fresh concrete properties
The workability of RPC mixtures (with and without fibres), measured
using the mortar flow table test as per ASTM C10915, was in the range of
120 140%. On the other hand, the workability of HPC mixtures (with
and without fibres), measured using the slump test as per ASTM C23116,
was in the range of 120 150 mm. The density of fresh RPC and HPC
mixtures was found to be in the range of 2500 2650 kg/m3.
Compressive strength
The compressive strength analysis throughout the study shows that RPC
has higher compressive strength than HPC, as shown in Fig. 1.
Compressive strength at early ages is also very high for RPC.
Compressive strength is one of the factors linked with the durability of a
material. In the context of nuclear waste containment materials, the
compressive strength of RPC is higher than required.

Fig 1: Compressive strength of RPC and HPC


he maximum compressive strength of RPC obtained from this study is as
high as 200 MPa, while the maximum strength obtained for HPC is 75
MPa. The incorporation of fibres and use of heat curing was seen to
enhance the compressive strength of RPC by 30 50%. The
incorporation of fibres did not affect the compressive strength of HPC

significantly.
Flexural strength
Plain RPC was found to possess marginally higher flexural strength than
HPC. Table 9 clearly explains the variation in flexural strength of RPC
and HPC with the addition of steel fibres. Here the increase of flexural
strength of RPC with the addition of fibres is higher than that of HPC.
Table 9: Flexural strength (as per IS 516) at 28 days (MPa)
RPC
NC* HWC**
11
12

RPC-F
NC* HWC**
18
22

*Normal Curing

HPC
NC*
8

HPC-F
NC*
10

**Hot Water Curing

As per literature3, RPC 200 should have an approximate flexural strength


of 40 MPa. The reason for low flexural strength obtained in this study
could be that the fibres used (30 mm) were long. Fibre reinforced RPC
(with appropriate fibres) has the potential to be used in structures
without any additional steel reinforcement. This cost reduction in
reinforcement can compensate the increase in the cost by the elimination
of coarse aggregates in RPC to a little extent.
Water absorption
Fig. 2 presents a comparison of water absorption of RPC and HPC. A
common trend of decrease in the water absorption with age is seen here
both for RPC and HPC. The percentage of water absorption of RPC,
however, is very low compared to that of HPC. This quality of RPC is one
among the desired properties of nuclear waste containment materials.

Fig. 2: Water absorption of RPC and HPC


The incorporation of fibres and the use of heat curing is seen to
marginally increase the water absorption. The presence of fibres possibly
leads to the creation of channels at the interface between the fibre and
paste that promote the uptake of water. Heat curing , on the other hand,
leads to the development of a more open microstructure (compared to
normal curing) that could result in an increased absorption.
Water permeability
The non-destructive assessment of water permeability using the Germann
Instruments equipment actually only measures the surface permeability,
and not the bulk permeability like in conventional test methods. A
comparison of the surface water permeability of RPC and HPC is shown
in Fig. 3.
It can be seen from the data that water permeability decreases with age
for all mixtures. 28th day water permeability of RPC is negligible when
compared to that of HPC (almost 7 times lower). As in the case of water
absorption, the use of fibres increases the surface permeability of both
types of concrete.

Fig. 3: Surface Water Permeability of RPC and HPC


Resistance to chloride ion penetration
Results of rapid chloride permeability test conducted after 28 days of
curing are presented in Table 10. Data indicate that penetration of
chloride increases when heat curing is done in concrete. Total charge
passed for normal-cured RPC is negligible compared to the other
mixtures. Even though heat-cured RPC shows a higher value than
normal-cured RPC, in absolute terms, it is still extremely low or even
negligible (<100 Coulombs). This property of RPC enhances its suitability
for use in nuclear waste containment structures.
The data also indicate that addition of steel fibres leads to an increase in
the permeability, possibly due to increase in conductance of the concrete.
The HPC mixtures also showed very low permeability, although higher
compared to RPC.
Table 10: Rapid Chloride Permeability Test (as per ASTM C 1202)
RPC with
HPC
fibres
HWC*
HWC
HWC** NC*
NC*
*
*
94
140 400 250 850

RPC
NC*
Cumulative
4
Charge (less than
passed in
10)

Coulombs
ASTM
C1202 Negligibl Negligibl Very Very Very Very
classificatio
e
e
low low low low
n
*Normal Curing

**Hot Water Curing

Summary
Reactive Powder Concrete (RPC) is an emerging technology that lends a
new dimension to the term high performance concrete. It has immense
potential in construction due to its superior mechanical and durability
properties compared to conventional high performance concrete, and
could even replace steel in some applications.
The development of RPC is based on the application of some basic
principles to achieve enhanced homogeneity, very good workability, high
compaction, improved microstructure, and high ductility. RPC has an
ultra-dense microstructure, giving advantageous waterproofing and
durability characteristics. It could, therefore, be a suitable choice for
industrial and nuclear waste storage facilities.
A laboratory investigation comparing RPC and HPC led to the following
conclusions:

A maximum compressive strength of 198 MPa was obtained. This


is in the RPC 200 range (175 MPa 225 MPa).

The maximum flexural strength of RPC obtained was 22 MPa,


lower than the values quoted in literature (~ 40 MPa). A possible
reason for this could be the higher length of fibres used in this
study.

A comparison of the measurements of the physical, mechanical,


and durability properties of RPC and HPC shows that RPC
possesses better strength (both compressive and flexural) and
lower permeability compared to HPC.

The extremely low levels of water and chloride ion permeability


indicate the potential of RPC as a good material for storage of
nuclear waste. However, RPC needs to be studied with respect to
its resistance to the penetration of heavy metals and other toxic
wastes emanating from nuclear plants (such as Cesium 137 ion in
alkaline medium) to qualify for use in nuclear waste containment

structures.
References
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Concrete, Cement and Concrete Research, Vol. 25, No.7, (1995),
pp. 1501 1511.
2. Aitcin P.C, Cements of yesterday and today Concrete of
tomorrow, Cement and Concrete Research, Vol. 30, (2000), pp
1349 - 1359.
3. Blais P. Y, and Couture M, Precast, Prestressed Pedestrian
Bridge - Worlds first reactive powder concrete structure, PCI
Journal, Vol. 44, (1999), pp. 60 - 71.
4. Dauriac C, Special Concrete may give steel stiff competition,
Building with Cincrete, The Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce,
May 9, 1997.
5. Basu P.C, Performance Requirements of HPC for Indian NPP
Structures, The Indian Concrete Journal, Sep. 1999, pp. 539
546.
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Characterization of the granular packing and percolation
threshold of reactive powder concrete, Cement and Concrete
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7. Goltermann P, Johansen V, and Palbol L, Packing of Aggregates:
An Alternative Tool to Determine the Optimal Aggregate Mix,
ACI Materials Journal, Sep-Oct. 1997, pp. 435 443.
8. Elkem AS website http://www.silicafume.net/
9. Matte V and Moranville M, Durability of Reactive Powder
Composites: Influence of Silica Fume on the leaching properties of
very low water/binder pastes, Cement and Concrete Composites,
21 (1999) pp. 1 - 9.
10. Staquet S, and Espion B, Influence of Cement and Silica Fume
Type on Compressive Strength of Reactive Powder Concrete,
6th International Symposium on HPC, University of Brussels,
Belgium, (2000), pp. 1 14.

11. Bickley J. A, and Mitchell D, A State-of-the-Art Review of High


Performance Concrete Structures Built in Canada: 1990-2000,
(2001), pp. 96 102.
12. HDR Engineering Website on Reactive Powder Concrete, Last
modified Nov. 1999,
http://www.hdrinc.com/engineering/engres.htm
13. Indian Standard Designation IS 516-1959, Methods of Test for
Strength of Concrete, BIS, New Delhi, 2002.
14. ASTM Standard Designation C1202-97, Standard Test Method
for Electrical Indication of Concretes Ability to Resist Chloride
Ion Penetration, ASTM, Pennsylvania, 2001.
15. ASTM Standard Designation C109-99, Standard Test Method for
Compressive Strength of Hydraulic Cement Mortars, ASTM,
Pennsylvania, 2001.
16. ASTM Standard Designation C143-00, Standard Test Method for
Slump of Hydraulic Cement Concrete, ASTM, Pennsylvania,
2001.