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Construction and Building Materials 218 (2019) 284–294

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Construction and Building Materials


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/conbuildmat

Effect of paste volume on fresh and hardened properties of concrete


S.H. Chu
The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

h i g h l i g h t s

 Effect of CPV on properties of concrete was assessed.


 Enhancement effect of decreasing the CPV was related to MFT.
 Decreasing the CPV increased the strength and quality of concrete.
 Decreasing the CPV reduced the cement for more sustainable concrete.
 Increasing the MFT but not necessarily CPV beneficial to concrete performance.

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Water to cement (W/C) ratio has been deemed as one of the most important factors affecting the prop-
Received 10 November 2018 erties of concrete. However, at constant W/C ratio, cement or cementitious paste volume (CPV) also plays
Received in revised form 8 May 2019 an important role, yet limited research has been done to quantify and unveil the mechanism behind. In
Accepted 19 May 2019
this study, the effect of CPV on various performance attributes of concrete at fresh and hardened states
Available online 24 May 2019
was evaluated by varying the CPV from 26% to 32% at two different W/C ratios. Based on the tests results
and inter-relationships among them, it was found that decreasing the CPV, i.e., reducing the cement con-
Keywords:
tent at constant W/C ratio, would decrease the uncompacted wet density while increase the compacted
Paste volume
Cement content
wet density, increase the strength at all curing ages, increase the Young’s modulus, flexural strength and
Fresh and hardened properties splitting tensile strength, and improve the quality of concrete, albeit the decrease of workability that
Packing could be compensated by increasing the superplasticizer dosage or adding fillers. Moreover, mechanisms
Mortar film thickness behind these phenomena have also been revealed from the perspective of mortar film thickness. The
work presented herein should be meaningful in the development of eco-friendly high performance
concrete.
Ó 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction However, in reality, concrete has been designed for specific use
by tailoring various components among which the CPV has been
Other than the degree of compaction, water to cement (W/C) decreased or increased, such as high performance concrete, pervi-
ratio has been deemed as the most important factor that governs ous concrete, fibre reinforced concrete and self-consolidating con-
the strength of concrete under a given curing condition and at a crete [4–10]. With the CPV decreased, dimensional stability and
given curing age [1–3]. Under a fully compacted condition, it has sustainability of concrete would be enhanced so as to produce high
been well known that the lower the W/C ratio, the higher the performance concrete and sustainable concrete [4,7]. With the CPV
strength of concrete. Tremendous efforts have been made by further decreased, voids between aggregate particles could not be
researchers around the world to model the relationship between fully filled by paste and it is a basic requirement for producing per-
W/C ratio and concrete strength, whilst the earliest formulas were vious concrete [5]. On the contrary, with the CPV increased, fibre
Féret’s rule by René Féret in 1896 and Abrams’ rule by Duff Abrams reinforced concrete and self-consolidating concrete with higher
in 1919 [2]. More fundamentally, W/C ratio exerts influences on flowability could then be made [4,6–9]. Therefore, the altered vol-
concrete properties through gel/space ratio the cube of which con- ume of paste is by no means negligible to the performance of con-
crete strength is approximately proportional to [1,2]. These are crete [3–14].
true for concrete with a constant cement/cementitious paste vol- A consensus has been reached that it is the nature of the paste
ume (CPV). primarily governs the strength of concrete, and the volume of the
paste only plays a secondary role [12], as reflected in the particular
E-mail address: shchu@connect.hku.hk attention paid to cement type and content while little attention

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2019.05.131
0950-0618/Ó 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
S.H. Chu / Construction and Building Materials 218 (2019) 284–294 285

paid to CPV during concrete structures design [3,14]. Despite of the thickness could then be obtained as excess paste/mortar volume
importance of W/C ratio, the role of CPV in the performance of con- (the total paste/mortar volume minus the paste/mortar volume
crete should be unveiled so as to better answer the old question of that has been filled into the voids between aggregate particles)
what affects the properties of concrete, especially in the context of divided by total surface area of aggregate particles. It is believed
more emerging supplementary cementitious materials accompa- that the paste/mortar film thickness should be the governing factor
nied by increasingly pressing challenge in enhancing sustainability behind the effect of CPV on various performance attributes of
and reducing environmental impact. Along this line, several concrete.
researchers have conducted research aiming to evaluate the effect Overall, because of the lack of reliable experimental methods
of CPV, or in other words, the aggregate volume, on various perfor- and systematic experimental results for assessing the effect of
mance aspects of concrete [3,12–14]. CPV on the fresh and hardened properties of concrete, quantitative
In 1979, Stock et al. investigated the effect of aggregate concen- analysis could not be performed and the mechanisms behind could
tration in concrete mixes containing 20 to 80% by volume of a not be revealed, that is why it is advocated that there is still a large
graded aggregate upon the strength and modulus of elasticity of research gap to be filled for this old problem, albeit some research
concrete in both uniaxial tension and uniaxial compression and has already been carried out. To fill this research gap, a research
suggested that the strength of cement paste in tension and in com- program based on precise mix design aiming to systematically
pression is reduced by the addition of 20% by volume of graded study the effect of CPV on fresh and hardened properties of con-
aggregate, falling to a minimum value at a volume fraction of crete was launched, as reported herein. In the research program,
30–35% and then increasing with further addition of aggregate the CPV was varied from 26% to 32% and the W/CM ratio was var-
[12]. In 1997, de Larrard and Belloc investigated the influence of ied from 0.60 to 0.65.
aggregate on the compressive strength of normal and high strength
concrete by varying the type and amount of aggregate of different
2. Experimental program
sizes and concluded that the lower the mean distance between two
adjacent coarse aggregates, the higher the strength [13]. In 2005,
2.1. Materials
Kolias and Georgiou evaluated the effect of CPV on the strength
of concrete by producing sixteen concrete mixes with different
Type CEM I cement of grade 52.5R in accordance with BS EN
W/C ratios and CPVs. However, the ratio of fine aggregate (sand)
197–1:2011 was employed. X-ray fluorescence has been con-
and coarse aggregate was also varied in their experimental pro-
ducted on cement and the results were presented in Fig. 1, from
gram, rendering the tests results not comparable and difficult to
which its chemical compositions were summarized in Table 1.
quantify accurately as the packing density, in other words, the
The density of cement was measured as 3.11 according to BS EN
voids between aggregate particles, changed along with the CPV [3].
196-6:2010. Locally available crushed granite aggregates of three
In 2017, Piasta and Zarzycki conducted research to identify the
size classes were adopted, i.e., fine aggregate (FA), medium aggre-
effect of CPV on compressive strength of high performance con-
gate (MA) and coarse aggregate (CA), and they have nominal max-
crete by designing nine concrete mixes with three W/C ratios at
imum sizes of 5 mm, 10 mm and 20 mm, respectively. Fig. 2
three CPVs. However, when the CPV was increased, the sand
depicted the particle size distributions of cement, FA, MA and CA
remained the same and only the amount of coarse aggregate was
measured by laser diffraction particle size analyzer for particles
reduced [14]. Albeit the existence of such experimental errors, con-
finer than 1.18 mm and mechanical sieving for particles coarser
clusions could be drawn that the CPV had a significant influence on
than 1.18 mm [4,16]. From the particle size distributions, the
the properties of high performance concrete. Mechanisms behind
specific surface areas of the FA coarser than 1.18 mm, MA and CA
the above phenomena given by different researchers have reached
were calculated as 3467, 906 and 525 m2/m3, respectively, with
no agreement, some believed that it was related to the mean dis-
the specific surface area of an aggregate particle taken as that of
tance between two adjacent coarse aggregates [13], some
an octahedron particle whose specific surface area is 1.73 times
explained it from the perspective of capillary porosity of the bulk
that of spherical particles [4,16]. Detailed calculations on the speci-
and interfacial transition zone [14], while some focused only on
fic surface area of the blended aggregate were presented in Sec-
the experimental results and gave no explanations [3]. Obviously,
tion 2.6. According to the methods stipulated in BS EN 812-2:
the evaluation methods, the findings and the explanations of the
1995, the relative densities of the FA, MA and CA were determined
mechanisms have been quite different from one to another and
as 2.48, 2.58 and 2.61, respectively, the moisture contents were
one of the reasons is that there exists no standardized evaluation
determined as 1.37%, 0.79% and 0.27%, respectively, and the water
method.
absorptions were determined as 1.89%, 1.04% and 0.61%, respec-
To this end, a precise mix design method based on the volume
tively. During batching of each concrete mix, an extra amount of
of each ingredient in one cubic meter of concrete is proposed
water to be absorbed into the aggregate particles to bring them
herein. With maintaining the CPV of concrete the same, only the
to the saturated surface dry condition was added.
W/C ratio varied and the ratio of different aggregate should also
To achieve better workability, a third generation
be kept constant. During the precise mix design and actual materi-
polycarboxylate-based superplasticizer (SP), whose solid content
als adding process, it should be born in mind that: first, the water
is 20% and relative density is 1.03, was added. A preliminary trial
content of each kind of aggregate should be measured and the
mixing using different SP dosages (expressed as a percentage by
actually added water should be taken into account based on aggre-
mass of the cement content) was carried out to evaluate the effec-
gate under consistent condition of saturated surface dry; second,
tiveness of the SP and determine the suitable SP dosage.
the water in superplasticizer should be included in the actually
added water; third, the particle size distribution of each kind of
aggregate is of vital importance and should be controlled carefully 2.2. Experimental design
because it affects the packing density of the whole aggregate sys-
tem and subsequently alters the volume of paste needed to fill To evaluate the effect of CPV on fresh and hardened properties
the voids between aggregate particles [15]. Lastly, for verification, of concrete, an experimental program was launched. The CPV was
the total volume of each raw material which is expressed in mass varied from 26% to 32% in steps of 2% at two different W/C ratios of
should be exactly equal to one cube meter. Based on this precise 0.60 and 0.65. Other than these two variables, the other mix
mix design method and packing theory [16], the paste/mortar film parameters were kept constant. The fine aggregate to total aggre-
286 S.H. Chu / Construction and Building Materials 218 (2019) 284–294

Fig. 1. X-ray fluorescence analysis of cement used.

Table 1 gate (F/T) ratio by mass was kept constant at 0.40 and the MA to CA
Chemical compositions of cement. ratio was kept constant at 1.0. The SP dosage was kept constant at
0.35% by mass of cement. The concrete mix proportions were tab-
Composition CaO SiO2 Al2O3 Fe2O3 MgO SO4 K2O
ulated in Table 2. For easy reference, each mortar mix was assigned
(% by mass) 66.48 20.17 4.01 2.77 0.85 5.13 0.58
a mix no. of X-Y, where X denotes the W/C ratio, Y denotes the CPV.
A total of eight concrete mixes were produced and tested, as listed
in Tables 2–6.
100
2.3. Manufacturing and curing
Cumulative percentage passing (%)

80
Firstly, the mortar portion, comprising of the water, cement and
fine aggregate, of each concrete mix was mixed for 3 min in a 60 L
60 concrete pan mixer. Then, three kinds of aggregate were succes-
Cement sively added to the pan mixer for mixing up to 3 min. This method
FA MA CA
of mixing would ensure thorough wetting of the fine particles to
40 avoid the formation of agglomerates. After mixing, a portion of
fresh concrete was taken out for slump test, wet density and com-
20
pacting factor tests. After these tests, the fresh concrete was
remixed and used to cast 150 mm cubes for compressive strength
test at varying curing ages, 100  100  500 mm prisms for 4-
0 point bending test and ultrasonic pulse test, £150  300 mm
0.1 1 10 100 1000 10000 100000 cylinders for splitting strength test and Young’s modulus test. At
Particle size (µm) one day after casting, all of the specimens were demoulded and
then cured in a lime-saturated water tank at a controlled temper-
Fig. 2. Particle size distributions of cement, FA, MA and CA.
ature of 27 ± 3 °C until the pre-set curing ages.

Table 2
Mix proportions.

Mix no. (W/CM-CPV) Cement content (kg/m3) Water content (kg/m3) Fine aggregate (kg/m3) Medium aggregate (kg/m3) Coarse aggregate (kg/m3)
0.60–26% 282 169 827 620 620
0.60–28% 304 182 784 588 588
0.60–30% 326 195 742 557 557
0.60–32% 348 209 700 525 525
0.65–26% 268 174 827 620 620
0.65–28% 288 187 784 588 588
0.65–30% 309 201 742 557 557
0.65–32% 330 214 700 525 525
S.H. Chu / Construction and Building Materials 218 (2019) 284–294 287

Table 3
Fresh properties results.

Mix no. Slump (mm) Uncompacted wet density (kg/m3) Compacted wet density (kg/m3) Compacting factor
0.60–26% 10 2030 2369 0.857
0.60–28% 20 2133 2338 0.912
0.60–30% 100 2248 2336 0.962
0.60–32% 160 2268 2326 0.975
0.65–26% 25 2184 2370 0.921
0.65–28% 90 2217 2349 0.944
0.65–30% 150 2232 2327 0.959
0.65–32% 175 2278 2308 0.987

Table 4
Mortar film thickness.

Mix no. Packing density of Mortar Mortar ratio Excess Specific surface area of MFT (mm)
particles > 1.18 mm volume (m3/m3) mortar ratio particles>1.18 mm (m2/m3)
0.60–26% 0.676 0.458 0.678 0.198 1303 0.152
0.60–28% 0.676 0.468 0.692 0.213 1303 0.163
0.60–30% 0.676 0.478 0.707 0.227 1303 0.175
0.60–32% 0.676 0.488 0.722 0.242 1303 0.186
0.65–26% 0.676 0.458 0.678 0.198 1303 0.152
0.65–28% 0.676 0.468 0.692 0.213 1303 0.163
0.65–30% 0.676 0.478 0.707 0.227 1303 0.175
0.65–32% 0.676 0.488 0.722 0.242 1303 0.186

Table 5
Cube compressive strength results.

Mix no. Cube compressive strength (MPa)


7-day 14-day 28-day 35-day
0.60–26% 32.4 40.5 47.2 50.2
0.60–28% 30.5 39.0 45.5 48.9
0.60–30% 29.7 38.6 44.6 47.9
0.60–32% 29.2 37.4 43.8 46.8
0.65–26% 29.8 37.7 41.6 44.7
0.65–28% 26.5 36.0 39.9 43.5
0.65–30% 24.6 35.7 38.9 41.8
0.65–32% 24.4 35.0 38.5 41.2

Table 6
Young’s modulus, flexural strength, splitting tensile strength, and ultrasonic pulse velocity test results.

Mix no. Young’s modulus (GPa) Flexural strength (MPa) Splitting tensile strength (MPa) Ultrasonic pulse velocity (km/s)
0.60–26% 28.3 5.45 3.37 4.94
0.60–28% 27.6 5.28 3.23 4.66
0.60–30% 25.4 5.09 3.10 4.63
0.60–32% 24.1 4.68 2.88 4.47
0.65–26% 26.9 4.99 3.58 4.66
0.65–28% 24.4 4.80 3.39 4.56
0.65–30% 24.0 4.74 3.08 4.40
0.65–32% 23.3 4.37 2.68 4.42

2.4. Slump test partially compaction method was carried out in accordance with
the conventional gravimetric procedure. The fully compaction
The slump test was performed using the standard slump cone in method was carried out by applying a vibrating rod to the fresh
general accordance with BS EN 12350-2: 2009. To perform the test, concrete until the surface of the concrete becomes relatively
the slump cone was filled with fresh concrete until full and then smooth and has a glazed appearance. The compacting factor is cal-
lifted upwards. The slump was recorded as the drop in height of culated as the mass of the partially-compacted concrete divided by
the concrete patty. If there is a strip of paste/mortar without coarse the mass of the fully-compacted concrete. To evaluate the uncom-
aggregate surrounding the concrete patty, segregation was pacted and compacted wet density of the fresh concrete mixes,
recorded. tests have been carried out according to BS 1881-107:1983. The
uncompacted wet density was determined as the mass of the par-
2.5. Compacting factor and wet density test tically compacted concrete sample in the container divided by the
capacity of the container, while the compacted wet density was
To evaluate the compacting factor of the fresh concrete mixes, determined as the mass of the fully compacted concrete sample
tests have been carried out according to BS 1881-103: 1993. The in the container capacity of the container.
288 S.H. Chu / Construction and Building Materials 218 (2019) 284–294

2.6. Packing density test receiving transducer, passing through the interposed concrete).
Two direct transmission measurements on the shortest distance
Wet packing test method [15] developed by the author’s group and the longest distance of the two opposite prism surfaces have
was adopted for the measurement of aggregate packing density. been conducted, and the test results were averaged to obtain the
Basic steps are as follows: first, the aggregate was blended in a con- mean ultrasonic pulse velocity.
tainer after which compaction was applied; second, water was
then added until full to form uniform water-aggregate mixture;
third, the solid concentration of the aggregate particles was 3. Experimental results
obtained from the density and water added into the container.
The maximum solid concentration was the packing density of 3.1. Fresh properties
aggregate. It should be noted that all the aggregate particles finer
than 1.18 mm were calculated into mortar portion of concrete The fresh properties of the concrete mixes, namely, slump,
[4]. Based on the packing density of aggregate, the volume of voids uncompacted and compacted wet density, and compacting factor,
to be filled with mortar can be calculated. After filling up the voids, were presented in the second to fifth columns of Table 3. It can
an excess mortar volume would be envisaged to surround the be observed that the slump varied between 10 and 160 mm and
aggregate particles. To be more scientific, mortar film thickness between 25 and 175 mm for concrete at W/C ratios of 0.60 and
(MFT), physically being the average thickness of mortar films coat- 0.65, respectively. For vivid illustration, the slump was plotted
ing the aggregate particles coarser than 1.18 mm could be against CPV for W/C ratios of 0.60 and 0.65 in Fig. 3. Obviously,
obtained. the slump increased with the increasing CPV and increased further
Detailed calculation method on the packing could be referred to at higher W/C ratio. Meanwhile, there were no signs of segregation
[4,7,15,17]. For easy understanding, all of the parameters herein for all the concrete mixes, thus it may be said that all the concrete
were defined with respect to the solid volume of the aggregate par- mixes have acceptable workability and good cohesiveness and thus
ticles >1.18 mm. After the packing density /max was determined, are suitable for practical construction.
the corresponding minimum voids ratio u can be determined as The uncompacted wet density and the compacted wet density
u = (1  /max)//max. Then, the excess mortar ratio um0 (the ratio were ranged between 2030 and 2268 kg/m3 and between 2326
of the volume of excess mortar to the solid volume of the particles and 2369 kg/m3 respectively for concrete mixes with W/C ratio
coarser than 1.18 mm) can be obtained as um0 = um  u where um is of 0.60, and ranged between 2184 and 2278 kg/m3 and between
the mortar ratio of the concrete mix (the ratio of the volume of 2308 and 2370 kg/m3 for concrete mixes with W/C ratio of 0.65.
mortar to the solid volume of the particles coarser than For clear illustration, the uncompacted and compacted wet densi-
1.18 mm). On the other hand, the specific surface area AS of the ties were plotted against CPV for two different W/C ratios in Fig. 4
particles coarser than 1.18 mm (the solid surface area per unit (a). It can be seen that the uncompacted wet density increased
solid volume of the particles coarser than 1.18 mm) can be with the CPV and there was a larger increase at a lower W/C ratio
obtained as AS = AFA  VFA + AMA  VMA + ACA  VCA where AFA, AMA before both uncompacted wet densities reached a similar highest
and ACA are respectively the specific surface areas and VFA, VMA value, while the compacted wet density decreased with the CPV
and VCA are respectively the volumetric ratios of FA coarser than and the decrease in wet density was more or less the same at dif-
1.18 mm, MA and CA. With the values of um0 and AS so determined, ferent W/C ratios.
the MFT may be obtained as MFT = um0 / AS. The compacting factor was ranged between 0.857 and 0.957
and between 0.921 and 0.987 for concrete mixes under W/C ratios
2.7. Strengths and Young’s modulus test of 0.60 and 0.65, respectively. For clear illustration, the compacting
factor was plotted against CPV for two different W/C ratios in Fig. 4
To evaluate the compressive strength, cube strength test spec- (b). It can be observed that the compacting factor increased with
ified in BS EN 12390-3: 2009 was conducted at a fixed loading the CPV for both W/C ratios, while the increasing rate of wet den-
rate of 6.8 kN/s. To evaluate the Young’s modulus, cylinder spec- sity was higher for lower W/C ratio, indicating that there exist
imens were prepared and capped at the two ends and then more voids inside the fresh concrete of lower W/C ratio and these
equipped with four strain gauges at mid-height before testing voids could be squeezed out by compaction.
at a fixed loading rate of 5.3 kN/s. From the compressive stress-
strain curve, the Young’s modulus was determined as the axial
stress to strain ratio in accordance with BS EN 1881-121: 1983.
The test results of each three specimens were averaged to give 300
the final test results of the concrete mix at each curing age. To W/C = 0.60
evaluate the flexural strength, the four-point bending test was W/C = 0.65
240
carried out according to BS EN 12390-5: 2009 at a fixed loading
of 0.125 kN/s (corresponds to 0.05 MPa/s). To evaluate the split-
Slump (mm)

ting tensile strength, the cylinder splitting test was carried out 180
according to BS EN 12390-6: 2009 at a fixed loading rate of
3.5 kN/s (corresponds to 0.05 MPa/s).
120
2.8. Ultrasonic pulse velocity test

To evaluate the quality of the concrete mixes, ultrasonic pulse 60


velocity test has been carried out according to BS EN 12504-4:
2004. A pulse of longitudinal vibrations is produced by an
0
electro-acoustical transducer held in contact with one surface of 24 26 28 30 32 34
the concrete under test. The ultrasonic pulse velocity is calculated CPV (%)
as the path length divided by the transit time (time taken for an
ultrasonic pulse to travel from the transmitting transducer to the Fig. 3. Slump versus CPV.
S.H. Chu / Construction and Building Materials 218 (2019) 284–294 289

2500 pressive strengths at the ages of 7-day, 14-day, 28-day and 35-
W/C = 0.60 Compacted day were plotted against the curing age for different CPVs at W/C
W/C = 0.65 Compacted ratios of 0.60 and 0.65 in Fig. 5. As expected, the compressive
2400 W/C = 0.60 Uncompacted strength was generally higher at a lower W/C ratio and/or an older
W/C = 0.65 Uncompacted
Wet density (kg/m3)

age. The highest cube strengths achieved were 32.4 MPa at 7-day,
40.5 MPa at 14-day, 47.5 MPa at 28-day and 50.2 at 35-day.
2300
For easier comprehension, the mean strengths at the curing
ages of 28-day were plotted against the CPV and cement content
2200 for different W/C ratios in Fig. 6. At given W/C ratio, it can be seen
that the compressive strengths were higher at lower CPV and
lower cement content. For instance, at W/C ratio of 0.60, the 28-
2100 day compressive strengths attained were 47.2, 45.5, 44.6 and
43.8 MPa for CPVs of 26%, 28%, 30% and 32%, i.e., cement content
of 282, 304, 326, 348 kg/m3, respectively It should be meaningful
2000
24 26 28 30 32 34 that reducing the cement content and increasing the concrete
CPV (%) strength could be achieved simultaneously, as reflected by a
decrease in cement content by 19.0% accompanied by an increase
(a) in compressive strength by 7.8% without lowering the W/C ratio
1.00 of concrete.

3.4. Young’s modulus


0.95
Young’s modulus results were tabulated in the second column
Compacting factor

of Table 6 and plotted against CPV and cement content in Fig. 7.


Obviously, it can be seen from the figure that the Young’s modulus
0.90 decreased with CPV and cement content. More specifically, with
the CPV increased from 26% to 32%, the Young’s modulus decreased
by 14.8% and 13.4% for W/C ratios of 0.60 and 0.65, respectively. An
0.85

W/C = 0.60 60
W/C = 0.65
0.80
24 26 28 30 32 34
CPV (%)
Cube strength (MPa)

40
(b)
Fig. 4. (a) Wet density and (b) compacting factor versus CPV.

20 0.60-26%
0.60-28%
3.2. Mortar film thickness 0.60-30%
0.60-32%
Tests results on mortar film thickness were tabulated in Table 4. 0
Independent of W/C ratio and CPV, the packing density of particles 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
coarser than 1.18 mm was 0.676, as depicted in the second column Age (day)
of Table 4. With the CPV designed and the volume of aggregate par- (a)
ticles finer than 1.18 mm, the mortar volume and the mortar ratio
(the ratio of the volume of mortar to the solid volume of the aggre- 60
gate particles >1.18 mm) can be calculated, as depicted in the third
and fourth columns of Table 4. Then, using the mortar ratio and
minimum voids ratio, the excess mortar ratio can be calculated,
Cube strength (MPa)

as depicted in the fifth column of Table 4. Lastly, using the excess 40


mortar ratio and the specific surface area of blended aggregate par-
ticles coarser than 1.18 mm, the average MFT can be calculated, as
depicted in the last two columns of Table 4.
20 0.65-26%
3.3. Compressive strength 0.65-28%
0.65-30%
Regarding the hardened properties of the concrete mixes, the 0.65-32%
test results for the concrete mix are taken as the average test 0
results of the three triplicated specimens. The compressive 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
strengths of the concrete mixes were studied by tabulating the Age (day)
7-day, 14-day, 28-day and 35-day cube compressive strength (b)
results in the second to fifth columns of Table 5, respectively. To
show the strength development of each concrete mix, the com- Fig. 5. Compressive strength development with age at W/C of: (a) 0.60; (b) 0.65.
290 S.H. Chu / Construction and Building Materials 218 (2019) 284–294

average decreasing rate of 2.35 GPa in Young’s modulus per 1% CPV 30


was calculated. This phenomenon is reasonable because the W/C = 0.60
Young’s modulus of hardened cement paste is relatively lower than W/C = 0.65
the aggregate, and decreasing the CPV would increase the Young’s 28

Young's modulus (GPa)


modulus of concrete [18].

26

3.5. Flexural strength and splitting tensile strength


24
Flexural strength and splitting tensile strength were tabulated
in the third and fourth columns of Table 6 and plotted against
CPV and cement content in Fig. 8. It can be observed from the fig- 22
ure that both the flexural strength and splitting tensile strength
decreased with the CPV and cement content and the flexural
20
strength was always higher than the splitting tensile strength. 24 26 28 30 32 34
The percentage decreases of 14.1% and 12.4% in flexural strength CPV (%)
and 14.5% and 25.1% in splitting tensile strength have been identi-
fied for W/C ratios of 0.60 and 0.65, respectively. The increased (a)
thickness of the hardened cement paste surrounding each aggre- 30
gate and the weakened interfacial transition zone between aggre-
W/C = 0.60
gate and paste due to increased CPV could help to explain this W/C = 0.65
phenomenon, as both of them provide a higher possibility for 28

Young's modulus (GPa)


incurring cracks inside the cement paste or in the interfacial tran-
sition zone [17–19].
26

60 24
W/C = 0.60
28-day compressive strength (MPa)

W/C = 0.65 22
50

20
260 280 300 320 340 360
40 Cement content (kg/m3)
(b)

30 Fig. 7. Young’s modulus versus (a) CPV and (b) cement content.

20 3.6. Ultrasonic pulse velocity


24 26 28 30 32 34
CPV (%) Ultrasonic pulse velocity results were tabulated in the last col-
(a) umn of Table 6 and plotted against CPV and cement content in
Fig. 9. From the table, it can be seen that as the CPV increased from
60 26% to 32%, the ultrasonic pulse velocity decreased by 9.1% and
W/C = 0.60 5.2%, respectively, for W/C ratios of 0.60 and 0.65, indicating a
28-day compressive strength (MPa)

W/C = 0.65 poorer quality of concrete. This may be caused by the fact that
low-strength cement paste is more vulnerable to defects than
50
aggregate and a higher CPV would lead to a higher overall amount
of defects, especially in the interfacial transition zone, which
impairs the concrete quality [17]. From another perspective, it is
40 also noteworthy that as the cement content was reduced by up
to 19.0%, the concrete quality increased without sacrificing the
concrete production costs.
30

4. Discussions

20 4.1. Effect of CPV on workability inter-relationship


260 280 300 320 340 360
Cement content (kg/m3) Fig. 10 presents the relationship between the compacting factor
(b) and slump. From the figure, it can be observed that a higher slump
corresponds to a higher compacting factor but the increasing rate
Fig. 6. 28-day compressive strength versus (a) CPV and (b) cement content. of compacting factor was slightly lower for higher W/C ratio and
S.H. Chu / Construction and Building Materials 218 (2019) 284–294 291

10 10 6
W/C = 0.60 W/C = 0.60

Ultrasonic pulse velocity (km/s)


W/C = 0.65 W/C = 0.65

Splitting tensile strength (MPa)


8 8
Flexural strength (MPa)

Flexural strength 5
6 6

4 4
4
2 2
Splitting tensile strength
0 0
24 26 28 30 32 34 3
24 26 28 30 32 34
CPV (%)
CPV (%)
(a)
(a)

6
10 10
W/C = 0.60 W/C = 0.60

Ultrasonic pulse velocity (km/s)


W/C = 0.65 W/C = 0.65
Splitting tensile strength (MPa)

8 8
Flexural strength (MPa)

Flexural strength 5
6 6

4 4
4

2 2
Splitting tensile strength
0 0 3
260 280 300 320 340 360 260 280 300 320 340 360
Cement content (kg/m3) Cement content (kg/m3)
(b) (b)
Fig. 8. Flexural and splitting tensile strength versus (a) CPV and (b) cement content. Fig. 9. Ultrasonic pulse velocity versus (a) CPV and (b) cement content.

at the same W/C ratio the compacting factor was also influenced by
the slump, behind which the CPV was the only variable for these 1.00
mixes. As can be seen from Fig. 3, the slump increased with the W/C = 0.60
CPV. Therefore, it can be drawn that with the increase of CPV, both W/C = 0.65
the compacting factor and the slump increased, while the increas- 0.95
Compacting factor

ing rate of compacting factor gradually decreased with respect to


slump until it approached ‘10 . e
eas
0.90 incr
V
4.2. Effect of CPV on workability-strength relationship CP

Whilst increasing the CPV yields better workability and 0.85


decreasing the CPV yields higher 28-day strength. Hence, it is dif-
ficult to draw a conclusion. Actually, both the workability and
strength performance should be considered and one good way of
evaluating the various combinations is to consider the concurrent 0.80
0 60 120 180 240 300
workability and strength by plotting the slump against the 28-
Slump (mm)
day strength for the different CPV in Fig. 11. Each solid curve plot-
ted represents the concurrent workability and strength that can be Fig. 10. Compacting factor versus slump.
achieved at the same W/C ratio and each dotted line plotted repre-
sents the concurrent workability and strength that can be achieved
at the same CPV. Generally, the curves all show the same trend of On one hand, comparing the positions of the workability-
decreasing workability with increasing strength. However, the strength curves in the figures, it is obvious that the curves are
curves for the different scenarios are in different positions. Basi- shifted upwards when CPV is increased and W/C ratio is increased,
cally, a higher curve indicated a better workability achieved for indicating that for given compressive strength, an improved slump
the same 28-day strength. could be achieved by increasing the CPV. It should be noted that as
292 S.H. Chu / Construction and Building Materials 218 (2019) 284–294

300 2500
W/CM = 0.60 W/CM = 0.60
W/CM = 0.65 Compacted W/CM = 0.65
240 2400
CPV = 26%

Wet density (kg/m3)


CPV = 30% CPV = 28%
Slump (mm)

2300 CPV = 32%


180 CPV = 32% CPV = 32%
CPV CPV = 30%
= 30%
120 2200 CPV
= 28%
CP
CP V
V =2 =2
60 8% 2100 6%
CPV = 26% Uncompacted
0 2000
35 40 45 50 35 40 45 50

28-day compressive strength (MPa) 28-day compressive strength (MPa)


(a)
Fig. 11. Slump versus 28-day compressive strength.
1.00
CPV = 32%
CPV increased, the amount of SP in one cubic meter concrete which W/CM = 0.60
is the SP dosage multiplied by the mass of cementitious materials W/CM = 0.65
CPV = 30%
also increased. This implies the workability impaired by the 0.95

Compacting factor
decreased CPV might be restored by adding a similar amount of CPV
= 28
SP and a better workability-strength performance could then be %
achieved. On the other hand, for given slump, an increase in com- CP
0.90 V
pressive strength could be achieved by three means, i.e., decrease =2
6%
the W/C ratio (increase the cement content for given CPV), and
decrease the CPV (decrease the cement content for given W/C
ratio), and the combined use of the above two means. Decreasing 0.85
the W/C ratio is definitely an effective way in increasing the con-
crete strength, while it would also cause a lot of problems, such
as higher cement content for given CPV, higher SP dosage, and 0.80
most of all it is less sustainable. Undoubtedly, decreasing the CPV 35 40 45 50
which also decreases the cement content provides a more sustain- 28-day compressive strength (MPa)
able perspective or an additional measure for improving concrete
strength.
(b)
The wet density was plotted against 28-day compressive Fig. 12. (a) Wet density and (b) compacting factor versus 28-day compressive
strength in Fig. 12(a). Two distinct phenomena happen to the strength.
trends of uncompacted wet density and compacted wet density
of concrete. The uncompacted wet density of concrete went down
with lower CPV, whilst the compacted wet density of concrete from the figure that, with the decrease of CPV, both the flexural
went up with lower CPV until the highest level possible among strength and splitting tensile strength increased with the compres-
all scenarios. This was partly because of the decreasing volume sive strength. It was noteworthy that the increase in flexural and
of low-density paste and increasing volume of high-density aggre- splitting tensile strength with compressive strength was not linear
gate at given W/C ratio and partly because of the less possibility of but in a decreasing rate, indicating that there existed a lower limit
entrapping of air voids into the fresh concrete in case of low but for the paste volume to be lowered down to such that the paste is
sufficient CPV concrete [17], as echoed in the figure that a higher sufficient to fill into the voids between aggregate particles [16,17],
compressive strength was always achieved at a lower CPV. otherwise the concrete would become into pervious concrete [5].
Moreover, it was also found that the differences between Further research on the lower limit of CPV and the proportioning
uncompacted wet density and compacted wet density were widen- of aggregate based on the precise mix design method is
ing with decreasing CPV. For instance, at the W/C ratio of 0.60, the recommended.
percentage increase in wet density due to compaction roared up
from 2.6% to 17.0% as CPV decreased from 32% to 26%. To better
4.4. Mechanisms based on MFT
illustrate this phenomenon, the compacting factor was plotted
against 28-day compressive strength in Fig. 12(b). A lower com-
Possible mechanisms behind these phenomena could be probed
pacting factor indicated a higher necessity of applying compaction.
from the perspective of MFT. For vivid illustration, the slump and
It can be seen that the compacting factor decreased as the CPV
28-day compressive strength were plotted against MFT in Fig. 14.
decreased, indicating that compaction was more indispensable
It can be seen from the figure that with the MFT increased from
for the making of low CPV concrete.
around 0.15 to 0.19 mm, the workability increased while the com-
pressive strength decreased steadily with MFT, for all W/C ratios
4.3. Effect of CPV on strength inter-relationship and regardless of CPV. As the MFT increased, the amount of mortar
surrounding each aggregate particle increased, which means more
To evaluate the inter-relationship among hardened properties, mortar lubricating the aggregate particles, rendering the workabil-
flexural strength and splitting tensile strength were plotted against ity increase and more defects impairing the quality of concrete due
28-day compressive strength in Fig. 13. Obviously, it can be seen to the relatively low-strength and porous characteristics of mortar
S.H. Chu / Construction and Building Materials 218 (2019) 284–294 293

10 10 aggregate volume was increased from 10% to 30%, albeit no


W/C = 0.60 strength results have been reported and correlated to the porosity.
W/C = 0.65 In other words, a lower paste volume for a given aggregate type,

Splitting tensile strength (MPa)


Flexural strength (MPa)

8 8
i.e., a smaller MFT, would lead to a lower porosity of the concrete.
As the strength is highly associated with the porosity, the concrete
Flexural strength
6 6 with lower MFT generally has higher strength. Moreover, the
ase
decre shorter distance from the aggregate surface the higher the porosity
CP V ease
decr of the interfacial transition zone and such pronounced reduction in
4 CP V 4 porosity should be largely ascribed to the wall effect in the vicinity
of aggregate particle. Further research on linking the particle pack-
ease ase
2 decr decre 2
ing behavior at the micro-level and the performance at the macro-
CPV CPV level is recommended.
Splitting tensile strength
0 0
35 40 45 50 5. Conclusions
28-day compressive strength (MPa)
In this paper, concrete mixes with various CPV at different W/C
Fig. 13. Flexural and splitting tensile strength versus 28-day compressive strength. ratios have been produced in order to evaluate the effect of CPV on
properties of concrete. A series of tests have been carried out to
characteristic the fresh properties of the slump, uncompacted
compared with aggregate [1,2,20]. Detailed explanations and com- and compacted wet density, compacting factor and hardened prop-
parisons with the test result in literature are presented below. erties of compressive strength at varying curing ages, Young’s
Regarding the fresh properties, a thicker MFT has a positive modulus, flexural strength, splitting tensile strength and ultrasonic
effect while a thinner MFT has a negative effect on the workability pulse velocity. Based on the test results and discussions, several
of concrete. Such a phenomenon is reasonable due to the fact that conclusions were drawn as below.
less obstruction to the free movement of aggregate particles and
lower friction among aggregate particles exist when the mortar 1. At the same W/C ratio and SP dosage, slump was lower at lower
film coating each aggregate particle is relatively thicker [21,22]. CPV, the uncompacted wet density decreased with the decrease
Two important points are worthy of mention. First, as the mortar of CPV while the compacted wet density increased with the
volume contains not only cementitious paste volume but also the decrease of CPV, and compaction is more indispensable for
volume of other particles with size fine than 1.18 mm, so the low CPV concrete as indicated by the relatively lower compact-
MFT could be improved by the addition of either inert fillers [23– ing factor at lower CPV.
27], such as limestone, quartz sand and recycling materials, or sup- 2. At the same W/C ratio, the 7-day, 14-day, 28-day and 35-day
plementary cementitious materials [28–31], such as fly ash, silica compressive strengths of the concrete mixes increased by up
fume and metakaolin. Second, since the MFT is affected by the to 22.1%, 8.3%, 8.1% and 8.5%, respectively, as the CPV was low-
packing density of the aggregate, optimizing the particle size dis- ered down from 32% to 26%, i.e., cement content decreased by
tribution of aggregate for higher excess mortar ratio and higher up to 19.0%, indicating that CPV has a great influence on con-
MFT is also a promising way to enhance the fresh properties of crete strength at all ages.
concrete without changing the W/C ratio and the paste volume 3. At the same W/C ratio, the Young’s modulus, flexural strength,
[32]. splitting tensile strength and ultrasonic pulse velocity of differ-
Regarding the hardened properties, as the MFT decreased, the ent concrete mixes increased by up to 17.4%, 16.5%, 33.6% and
strength of the concrete increased constantly within the observed 10.5%, respectively, as the CPV was lowered down from 32%
range of MFT and such trend has also been reported in the litera- to 26%, i.e., cement content decreased by up to 19.0%, indicating
ture review. In 2013, Gao et al. [33] reported based on the porosity that CPV has a great influence on these hardened properties.
results and backscattered electron imaging that the porosity of the 4. As the paste volume decreased, the MFT decreased. Such
interfacial transition zone [34,35], which corresponded to the decreased MFT would impair the workability due to the thinner
hardened mortar film in this paper, decreased significantly as the mortar film coating each aggregate particle but enhance the
strength as the porosity within the interfacial transition zone
decreased.
300 60 5. Increasing the MFT but not necessarily the paste volume would
W/C = 0.60 dramatically improve the workability of concrete, pointing to
28-day compressive strength (MPa)

Compressive strength W/C = 0.65 50


the direction that fillers and recycling materials could be used
240 to replace CPV for much enhanced workability without increas-
ing the carbon footprint.
40
6. Lowering the CPV which also lowers down the cement content
Slump (mm)

180
provides a sustainable way for enhancing the strength of con-
30
crete without increasing the concrete production costs.
120 Slump
20 Overall, except for the W/C ratio, CPV is also an important factor
that affects the fresh and hardened properties of concrete as pre-
60
10
sented above. Possible mechanisms behind these phenomena
should be related to the average thickness of mortar film coating
each aggregate particle, which is called MFT. We should bear in
0 0
0.14 0.16 0.18 0.20 mind that decreasing the CPV could decrease the workability
MFT (mm) whose negative effects could be compensated by adding more SP
and applying compaction, while dramatically improve various
Fig. 14. Slump and 28-day compressive strength versus MFT. hardened properties of concrete, and most of all, during which
294 S.H. Chu / Construction and Building Materials 218 (2019) 284–294

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