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African University of Science & Technology ,Abuja Nigeria University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo Brazil


Emeso B. Ojo1*, Carlos A. Fioroni2, Kabiru Mustapha3 and Holmer Savastano Jr2
1 Department of Material Science and Engineering, African University of Science and Technology, Abuja, Nigeria
AUST 2Department of Biosystems Engineering, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo Brazil
3 Department of Material Science and Engineering, Kwara State University, Malete, Nigeria


This study presents an experimental investigation on the durability performance of alkali activated natural clay based composites reinforced with natural and synthetic fibres to
alternate wet/dry cycles. With appropriate optimization, alkali activation of clay minerals has the potential to replace the energy intensive kiln firing process employed for the
production of building units. However, the durability of this mechanism is still considered an unproven issue to be elucidated before large scale adoption particularly when
natural fibres are used as reinforcement. For this purpose, a comparative assessment was conducted between alkali activated earth based composites reinforced with sisal fibres
and polypropylene fibres after exposure to 300 alternate wetting and drying cycles. Mechanical and microstructural properties were evaluated before and after accelerated ageing
to elucidate degradation mechanisms. Results show that the deterioration mechanisms are largely dominated by weakening of the matrix resulting in a significant drop in flexural
strength. However, energy absorption capacities remain fairly constant indicating that fibres maintain sufficient ductility and service life of these composites are satisfactory.

The development of alternative binders to traditional cements and concretes from the alkali activation of various Extrusion at Plastic Limit of
industrial by-products (blast furnace slags and/or fly ashes) and natural aluminosilicates is a growing research area Soil
within the scientific community . Extensive studies have demonstrated the propensity of natural aluminosilicate
minerals to dissolve in alkaline media2-5 This suggests that alkali activation of the existing clay minerals in the soils
has the potential to provide sufficient binding for the production of building materials. However, the durability of
these alkali activated systems is still an unproven area to be elucidated before large scale adoption. Furthermore,
earthen building materials are typically reinforced with natural fibres to provide toughness or energy absorption NaOH/
capacity to the brittle earth based matrices as well as reduce shrinkage characteristics. However, durability Na2SiO3
concerns have been associated with the use of natural fibres in alkaline matrices as a result of mineralization and Curing @105˚C
embrittlement of fibres in fibre-cement composites6,7. Hence, the incorporation of natural fibres in alkali activated for 5hrs
earth based construction may pose durability concerns. Evaluation of the service life of the stabilized materials via
Water Subjected to 300 alternate
the wetting and drying test is thus significant. The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of wet/dry cycles
accelerated ageing on properties of alkali activated clay based composites reinforced with natural/synthetic fibres.
Alkali activated clay based composites were subjected to accelerated ageing through cyclic wetting and drying to
serve as deteriorating agent. The accelerated ageing test was adopted to simulate the natural ageing with exposure
to soaking and drying cycles as tested in previous work8,9
Resistance of fibres to degradation in the alkaline matrix was evaluated by comparing mechanical properties of
natural sisal fibre and alkali resistant polypropylene reinforced matrices after accelerated ageing.
Polypropylene Sisal
Matrix before wet/dry cycles Matrix after wet/dry cycles

Microstructural analysis
of unreinforced matrix
reveal a deterioration of
matrix at the end of 300
wet/dry cycles.

Fibre Morphology after wet/dry cycles

Sisal fibre

Fibre morphology at
fracture surfaces after
Mechanical tests were performed wet/dry cycles show Polypropylene fibre
in a Universal Testing Machine to fibres are still intact after
determine the Modulus of Rupture, wet/dry cycles. However,
(MOR) and Toughness to ascertain larger voids are observed
effect of wet dry cycles on matrix around the periphery of
and fibre/matrix interactions. sisal fibres due to swell-
𝑃𝐿 shrink characteristics
MOR = 2
𝑏ℎ compared to pp.
𝑎𝑏𝑠𝑜𝑟𝑏𝑒𝑑 𝑒𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑔𝑦
Toughness = 𝑏ℎ
where P is the maximum load, L is the major
span length, b and h are the sample’s respective
width and depth

Exposure to wet/dry cycles results in an 86% drop in MOR in the unreinforced matrix indicating a degradation of the matrix. This may be attributed to loss of material such as
unreacted fines or a dissolution of precipitates as a result of low molarity of alkaline solution and low reactivity of uncalcined clay minerals. Nevertheless, the values do not fall
below typical values of MOR recorded for earth based construction. Inclusion of fibre reinforcements improves the stability and resistance of composites to degradation after
exposure to wet/dry cycles with pp reinforced composites performing better than sisal counterparts. Toughness and energy absorption capacities of composites before and after
wet/dry cycles is not significantly altered indicating that fibres still maintain sufficient ductility. This is attributed to a weaker fibre matrix interaction, which favours toughening by
fibre debonding. REFERENCES
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way to mitigate degradation of natural fibre reinforcements in alkali
activated earth based composites.