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Aggregates used in Concrete

 Concrete is a mixture of sand, gravel, crushed rock or other aggregates held together
by a hardened paste of cement and water. Aggregate is much cheaper than cement
and maximum economy is obtained by using as much aggregate as possible. Its use
also considerably improves both the volume, stability and the durability of the
resulting concrete.
 Concrete is differentiated from other cement-water-aggregate mixtures on the basis
of aggregate size. When cement is mixed with water and a fine aggregate of less
than 1/4th “ ( 6.35mm), it is known as Mortar, stucco, & cement plaster. When a
larger aggregate more than 1/4th” in diameter is added to cement, fine aggregate &
water the product is concrete.
Concrete in the hardened state can be considered as an artificial stone made by binding together
particles of relatively inert materials (aggregates) with a past made of cement & water.
Aggregate occupies 70-75% concrete volume.

The most common sources of aggregates are coastal shores& stream deposits for natural sands
and gravels. The latter source tends to produce the best material because of rounding, sorting, &
grading action of streams which tend to eliminate softer (weaker) materials through abrasion.

The three main categories of parent rocks out of which aggregates can be obtained are:
 Igneous rocks
 Sedimentary rocks and
 Metamorphic rocks
Generally, igneous rocks that are fine grained & well interlocked & contain low percentages of
feld spare have the best concrete making property. Aggregate particles can be weak, either
because they are composed of inherently weak substances or because of the constituent grain
are not well cemented together.
For instance, Granites composed of hard & strong crystals of quartz & feldspar typically
possess lower strength & elastic modulus than gabbros because the grains in granite are poorly

Among sedimentary rocks, massive, hard lime stones make usually the best aggregate.
Deep seated metamorphism can also produce excellent aggregate materials (e.g. Marble).

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Effects of Aggregate Size on Concrete Properties

The properties of fresh concrete are affected by the maximum aggregate size. For a concrete of
given strength, and workability, a 20 mm maximum aggregate mix will require about 10kg/m3
cement more than a 40mm aggregate mix to compensate for slight increase in water required by
the same stone(small stone require high water than large stone).
The particle shape is also important in the angular aggregates normally produce concrete of
low workability & higher strength than do rounded aggregates.

Flaky &elongated aggregates tend to be unsuitable for use in concrete.

The water demand of an aggregate, & hence the water required to achieve ascertained
workability can not be related to any single measurable characteristics & is generally
ascertained by trial & error. However, it does appear to depend up on a combination of surface
texture, particle shape, maximum size & the combined grading of the aggregates.

N.B.Maximum size of aggregate should not be larger than 1/5th of minimum dimension of
section nor larger than 3/4th of minimum clear spacing between reinforcing bars.

Physical Properties of Aggregates

The properties of the aggregate known to have a significant effect on concrete behavior are:

 Strength  Volume change

 Durability  Porosity
 Toughness  Relative density
 Hardness  Chemical reaction

The strength of aggregate limits the attainable strength of concrete only when its compressive
strength is less than or of the same order as the design strength of concrete. In practice the
majority rock aggregates used are usually considerably stronger than concrete. The strength of
aggregate is normally assessed from compressive strength tests on cylindrical specimens taken
from the parent rock & from crushing value tests on bulk aggregates. In order that a concrete be
durable, in so far as the influence of the aggregate is concerned, it is important.

i) That the aggregate be resistant to weathering action

ii) That no unfavorable reaction takes place between the aggregate minerals & the
components of the cement.
iii) That the aggregate contains no impurities which affect the strength & soundness of the
cement paste.

A commonly used definition for aggregate toughness is its resistance to failure by impact & this
is normally determined from the aggregate impact test.

Hardness is the resistance of an aggregate to wear & is determined by an abrasion test.

Toughness and hardness properties of an aggregate are particularly important for concrete used
in road pavements.

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Volume change due to moisture moments in aggregate derived from soundness & some basalt
may result in considerable shrinkage of the concrete.

If the concrete is resist rained this produces internal tensile stress, possible tensile cracks &
subsequent deterioration of the concrete.
If the coefficient of thermal expansion of an aggregate differs considerably from that of cement
paste, this too may adversely affect the concrete performance.

Aggregate Porosity is an important property since it affects the behavior of both freshly mixed
& hardened concrete through its effects on the strength, water absorption & permeability of the
aggregate. An aggregate with high porosity will tend to freezing & thawing, than an aggregate
with low porosity.

Direct measurement of porosity is difficult & in practice a related property, namely, water
absorption is measured. The water absorption is defined as the weight of water absorbed by a
dry aggregate in reaching a saturated surface dry state & is expressed as a percentage of the
weight of dry aggregate.

It should be noted that, for a given rock type, absorption can vary depending on the way in
which it is measured & also on the size of the aggregate particles.

Concrete mix properties are normally based on the weight of the aggregate in their saturated
surface dry condition & any change in their moisture content must be reflected in adjustment to
the weights of the aggregates used in the mix.

The relative density of materials is the ratio of unit weight to that of water.

Since aggregates incorporate pores, the value of relative density depends on the extent to which
the contained (absorbed) water when the value is determined. Aggregate is the major
constituent of concrete & as such its relative density is an important factor affecting the density
of the resulting concrete.

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Aggregate Grading

The grading of an aggregate defines the proportions of particles of different sizes in the
aggregate using sieve analysis as specified by ASTM. The sieves used include the following
sizes: 5mm, 2.5mm, 1.25mm, 630 μm, 315 μmm, and 160μm corresponding to the number ( N0
8,N0 16, N0 30, N0 50, N0 100) for fine aggregates and 150mm, 75mm, 37.5mm, 19mm,
9.5mm, 4.75mm for coarse aggregates.

The grading of an aggregate can have a considerable effect on the workability & stability of a
concrete mix & is a most important factor in concrete mix design.

An aggregate can be continuously graded or gap- graded depending on whether the sizes are

Limits are usually specified for percentage of material passing each sieve. Grading limits &
maximum size of aggregates are important because they affect relative aggregate proportions,
cement and water requirements, workability, economy, porosity, shrinkage, and durability of
concrete. In general, aggregates which conform to the grading limits produce the most
satisfactory limits.
The three main categories of aggregate are:
1. Fine aggregate or sand containing particles mainly passing through a 5mm sieve.
2. Coarse aggregate which is largely retained on a 5mm sieve.
3. All – in aggregate which is composed of both fine & coarse aggregates.

Table 1. Gradation range in fine aggregate.

To find the cumulative percentage of retained on each sieve, add the percentage retained on
each one to the total retained on the sieves above.

Example: suppose that a 1000gram sample yielded the following amounts on each sieve after

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Another test made on the aggregate to determine the relative fineness or coarseness of the
material is fineness modulus test.

A 500 gram sample is taken and screened. The percentage retained on each screen & the
cumulative percentages are calculated as above.

The cumulative percentages are totaled & divided by 100; the resulting number is the fineness
modulus number. Allowable fineness modulus N0s range from 2.30 to 3.10 N0s from 2.30 to
2.60 indicate a fine sand, those from 2.61 to 2.90 medium sand and those from 2.91 to 3.10
coarse sand.

FM = Cumulative Retained /100

Grading Limits for fine aggregates
Percent by weight passing Bs sieves

* For crushed stone sands, the permissible limit is increased to 20%.

Grading limit for all-in aggregate

Moisture Content of Aggregate

Two types of moisture are recognized in aggregates:

Absorbed moisture &
Surface moisture
Absorbed moisture is that is, taken in by the voids in aggregates particles & may not be
apparent on the surface, while surface moisture is that clings to the surface of particles.

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The absorbed & surface moisture of aggregates need to be determined in order to control the
net water content of the mix & to make adjustments in the batch weights of the materials.

The moisture conditions of aggregates are designated as follows.

Oven-dry: In this condition they are fully absorbent

Air-dry: Particles are dry at the surface but contain some interior moisture. They are, therefore,
somewhat absorbent.
Saturated –surface dry: In this condition there is no water on the surface, but the particle
contains all the interior moisture it will hold. It will neither absorb moisture nor
contribute moisture to the mix
Damp or wet: The particles contain excess moisture on the surface & will contribute moisture
to the mix.
The amount of moisture in the fine aggregate is determined by a moisture test.
A 500 g sample is taken & placed in a shallow pan, & dried by gas jet in an oven or by pouring
methyl hydrate over & burning it off. Drying continues until the sample no longer continues to
lose weight.

Now, loss in weight / (dry weight)* 100 = % of total moisture

Surface moisture in the fine aggregate is the cause of the phenomena known as Bulking of
sand. Surface moisture holds the particles apart, causing an increase in volumes over the same
amount of sand in a surface dry condition. The finer the sand the higher will be the bulking
 In coarse aggregate the bulking due to moisture is negligible.
 Sand which is completely submerged or “inundated” shows no bulking.

Fig. General trend of Bulking

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Specific Gravity & Unit Weight of Aggregates

Specific gravity of aggregate is defined as weight of aggregate dried in saturated -surface –

dry condition over water occupying volume equal to that of solids including permeable pores.
The majority of aggregates have specific gravity between 2.5 to 2.9. The main use of specific
gravity is to design a concrete mix, to calculate the yield of concrete for a given proportion &
to calculate the yield of concrete for a given proportion & to calculate void ratios for a given
aggregate. In cases when the determination of absolute volume of aggregate for given cement
past is required specific gravity has a role. The absolute volume of solid matter in all the
particles, excluding the voids between particles. The mathematical relation is shown as:

Absolute Volume = Wt of Loose material/ sp.gr x unit wt of water

Example: The absolute volume of 45.4kg cement, whose sp.gr is 3.15, would be
Absolute Volume = 45.4/ (3.15*1000) = 0.04m3

The unit wt of (also bulk unit wt) of aggregate is defined as the wt of an aggregate sample
filling up a container of unit volume. This unit volume is designated as bulk volume which is
the sum of solid particles plus (+) the volume of voids. Two types of bulk densities are
 Loose bulk density and
 Loaded bulk density.
IS: 2386 – 1963 specifies the following standard volumes of containers for different sizes of
Size of Aggregate Volume of container
4.75 mm & under 3 liter
4.75 – 40 mm 15 liter
Over 40 mm 30liter
To determine the loose bulk density, the above mentioned containers are filled with out any
additional compactive effort. For roded bulk density, the aggregate is rodded in three layers.
Loose bulk density can be used for converting wt of aggregate in to bulk volume or vice
versa.Rodded bulk density is useful in determining changes in the uniformity of sizes &
grading in aggregates.

Factors affecting the bulk of densities are:

o Degree of compaction: Greater the effort put in filling the aggregate into the container,
greater is the N0 of particles packed in to it & greater therefore,
will be the value of bulk density.
o Shape of the particle. Rounded particles have lesser quantity of voids than the angular
aggregates. With the same compactive effort then, the bulk
density of rounded aggregates is greater than that of the angular.
o Grading of Aggregate. A well graded aggregate will have the least void, whereas the
single sized aggregates may have larger voids. The bulk density
of well graded aggregate is greater than of poorly graded or

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single size aggregate, provided the compactive effort is the same
in both of the cases.
Aggregates are classified according to their sp.gr & unit wt as:
a) Light weight aggregate:
o Unit weight less than 1000kg/m3 and
o Specific gravity less than 2.4
Example. Volcanic ash – such as “red-ash “, scoria & pumice
It has two advantages:
 Lower unit wt &
 Lower thermal conductivity
It is mostly used in manufacture of pre-cast concrete blocks.
b) Normal weight aggregate
 Unit wt ranges 1000 – 1800 kg/m3
 Sp.gr. between 2.5 - 2.70
Example. Granite & sand stone
This is suitable for most purposes & produce concrete with a density in the range (2300 – 2500)
kg/m3. Rock aggregate are obtained by crushing quarried rocks to required particles size.
c).Heavy Weight Aggregate.
 Unit wt ranges between 1800 – 7000 kg/m3
 Sp.gr. greater than 2.8
Example. Magnetic & limonite
It provides an effective & economic use of concrete for radiation-shielding by giving the
necessary protection against X-rays, Gamma-rays, & Neutrons.

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