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NDTCE’09, Non-Destructive Testing in Civil Engineering

Nantes, France, June 30th – July 3rd, 2009

Evaluation of residual reactivity of concrete cores from ASR-affected

structures by non-destructive tests

Maryam SARGOLZAHI1, Patrice RIVARD2, Jamal RHAZI3

1-PhD Candidate. Civil Engineering Department, Université de Sherbrooke,

Sherbrooke, Canada, Maryam.Sargolzahi@usherbrooke.ca
2- Associate Professor. Civil Engineering Dept, Université de Sherbrooke, Canada
3- Adjunct Professor. Civil Engineering Dept, Université de Sherbrooke, Canada

The alkali–silica reaction (ASR) is a deleterious reaction affecting numerous concrete structures
worldwide. The effect of ASR on durability of a concrete structure could be very severe and
weaken its strength, stiffness, serviceability, safety and stability. This study provides an
overview of a research on ASR affecting two concretes locks. The procedure aims at estimating
the future expansion of concrete structures, as well as the amount of potential damage. The
methods used in the laboratory for the assessment of ASR in concretes are: residual expansion
tests in NaOH, ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV) and resonance frequency measurements. No
unique relationships were obtained between the expansion due to ASR and the results of NDT.
The resonance frequency appears to be a valuable method for assessing ASR damage in
concrete. Such test methods guarantee the use of NDT methods to identify and characterize the
evolution of the ASR on concrete structures.

La réaction alcali-silice (RAS) est un processus de dégradation affectant de nombreux ouvrages
en béton à travers le monde. L'effet de la RAS sur la durabilité d'une structure en béton est très
profond et affaiblit sa résistance, rigidité, sécurité et stabilité. Cette étude décrit une recherche
sur la caractérisation de la RAS touchant deux écluses en béton. L’objectif vise à estimer la
future expansion des structures en béton, aussi bien que la quantité d’endommagement
potentiel. Les méthodes utilisées dans le laboratoire pour l'évaluation de la RAS sont : essais
d'expansion résiduels en solution alcaline, mesure de la vitesse de propagation des ultrasons
(UPV) et mesure de la fréquence de résonance. Aucune relation unique n'a été obtenue entre
l'expansion due à la RAS et les résultats des essais non destructifs. La fréquence de résonance
semble être la méthode la plus pertinente pour l’évaluation de l’endommagement lié à la RAS.
Cette méthode peut être utilisée pour caractériser l'évolution de la RAS dans les structures en

Alkali-silica reaction, expansion, resonance frequency, pulse velocity
NDTCE’09, Non-Destructive Testing in Civil Engineering
Nantes, France, June 30th – July 3rd, 2009

1 Introduction

Alkali-Silica Reaction (ASR) is a chemical reaction between certain types of aggregates and
hydroxide ions (OH-) associated with alkalis in the cement paste, under humidity conditions.
Under some conditions, the reaction may result in damaging expansion and cracking of the
concrete. This reaction is a common cause of concrete degradation in Eastern Canada due to the
distribution of potentially reactive aggregate sources and relatively high alkali content of the
cements produced in this region. The state of ASR damage in two concrete locks situated in
Eastern Canada is investigated in this work. These concrete structures were built in the early
60’s and the exhibition of mapcracks and ASR gel on the surface of concrete, as well as
movement in several components, indicated that ASR is currently undergoing in these
structures. The aim of this study is evaluation of the state of damage and estimation of the
future degradation associated with ASR by using non-destructive test (NDT) methods.
Non-destructive tests (NDT) have been used to monitor the initiation and progress of ASR
damage in concrete. Measurement of ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV) and resonance
frequencies are the most frequent NDT methods of assessing ASR development. The pulse
velocity is affected by internal deterioration and microcracking and the expansion due to ASR
may cause the reduction of pulse velocity [1-4]. The variation of mechanical properties of
concrete due to ASR damage may also be detected by measurement of resonance frequencies.
Resonance frequencies are used extensively in assessing damage caused by environmental
condition of concrete such as freezing and thawing. The resonance frequency of a concrete core
affected by ASR may decrease with the reaction progression [4-6].

2 Experimental program

UPV tests according to ASTM C 597-97, longitudinal resonance frequency measurements

according to ASTM C 215-02 and residual expansion measurements in NaOH were
conducted in the laboratory on 80-mm cores drilled from two concrete locks. The concrete of
the first lock incorporated the Potsdam sandstone (PS) as coarse aggregate and sand, while a
siliceous clayey limestone (SCL) was used for the concrete of the second lock. The concrete
cores investigated here were collected by drilling vertical boreholes.
Six cores were selected from each structure for the investigation: 3 cores for non-
destructive tests and 3 cores for residual expansion measurement. In order to evaluate the
influence of exposure condition on concrete, the cores were collected at different depths from
locations more or less severely affected by the reaction. The 3 specimens that were selected
for non-destructive tests were stored in a 1 molar NaOH solution at 38°C. Gauge stainless
studs were glued on the 3 specimens selected for residual expansion tests. After measuring
their initial length, these specimens were placed in an oven filled with water at 38° C and
stored in this condition for the 24 hours. Then the specimens were removed from the water,
their lengths were measured and all the specimens were submersed in a 1 molar NaOH
solution kept at 38°C.

3 Results

3.1 The initial characterization of concrete cores

This section presents the results of non-destructive tests on more than 20 core samples from
various depths of concrete structures is presented in Table 1. In both concretes, there is
dispersion between the results of initial non-destructive tests that point the difference in
NDTCE’09, Non-Destructive Testing in Civil Engineering
Nantes, France, June 30th – July 3rd, 2009

concrete quality in different lengths of drilling. It has to be noted that ASR symptoms, such as
gel exudation, cracks and reaction rims around aggregate particles were observed on the entire
surface of PS specimens when they were extracted from concrete structure.

Table 1. Results of non-destructive tests on concrete cores (before residual expansion test)
(Siliceous clayey (Potsdam Sandstone)
Ultrasonic pulse velocity (m/s) 4020 – 4730 3585 – 4330
Longitudinal resonance frequency (Hz) 8435 – 10770 7600 – 9130
Transversal resonance frequency (Hz) 4970 – 6010 4060 – 5185

Based on the results of NDT performed on concrete cores, SCL cores showed better
quality than PS cores. The low UPV and resonance frequencies of PS and the presence of the
reaction rim on the surface cores emphasised that the ASR had already started in this concrete
structure. Other explanations may be found regarding the aggregate properties. The Potsdam
sandstone in PS concrete has a lower Young modulus compared with the clayey limestone in
SCL concrete. Moreover, the sandstone is more porous than the limestone. The density and
adsorption of limestone are 2.69g/ and 0.48%, respectively, whereas these properties in
sandstone are 2.57g/ and 1.15%. This point out that absolute ND values cannot be
directly used to assess ASR-damage in concrete without deeper investigation.

3.2 Expansion measurement

The residual absolute reactivity of aggregate present in concretes was determined by using the
procedure detailed by Bérubé and Fournier [7]. Due to this procedure, absolute reactivity of aggregates
in concrete cores could be determined, and classified according to Table 2. In PS, the reaction rate
was quite fast during the first 3 weeks (0.05%) and then it increased gradually during the next
months (Fig. 1). The highest expansion level of 0.1% was measured at 41 weeks. The average
of reaction rate in this concrete was around 0.002% per week. The latency of expansion in this
concrete may emphasize that this concrete was already affected by ASR and reached its
extreme expansion level.
In SCL, the expansion significantly increased until 0.23% at 32 weeks and since then the
reaction rate decreased slightly (Fig. 1). The maximum expansion level was 0.28% at 54
weeks. These results show the very high reactivity of siliceous limestone present in SCL.

Table 2. Absolute reactivity of aggregate in concrete cores (Bérubé and Fournier, 2000)
Expansion at 1 year (%) Reactivity
< 0.04 Negligible
0.04 to 0.08 Low
0.08 to 0.12 Moderate
0.12 to 0.2 High
> 0.2 Very high
NDTCE’09, Non-Destructive Testing in Civil Engineering
Nantes, France, June 30th – July 3rd, 2009

Figure 1. Expansion of concrete cores

3.3 Non-destructive tests

Figure 2 shows the variation of the ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV) with time. The first
measurement showed the UPV of CSL was 55 m/s higher than that of PS and this value in
SCL was always higher than 4000 m/s. In CPS, UPV was always higher than 3660 m/s that
point out the good quality of this concrete during the reaction development. Furthermore, in
spite of the ongoing reaction, UPV was above 3000 m/s for both concrete. That means this
method is not really sensitive to ASR progression and should not be used to assess the real
state of ASR damage in concrete. Also, for both concretes, there is no relationship between
expansion and loss in pulse velocity. Dispersion of data is high (Fig. 2). This phenomenon can
be explained by the relatively thin cracks that are continuously created by ASR. These cracks
can be filled, completely or partially with gel, which do not have a remarkable effect on
reducing the P-wave velocity.
The variation with time of the longitudinal resonance frequency of concrete cores is
shown in Figure 3. The initial frequency of PS was 9585 Hz that was 13% less than that of
SCL. The variation of resonance frequency in both concretes was negative. Although the
expansion of PS have not increased for 41 weeks, frequency decreased almost steadily with
time to reach 8250 Hz at 50 weeks (14% decrease). The reduction of this value in SCL was
17%, which was higher than that of PS. In both concretes, resonance frequency was
influenced directly by the expansion and the effect of ASR on this value was more critical
than the effect on UPV.
NDTCE’09, Non-Destructive Testing in Civil Engineering
Nantes, France, June 30th – July 3rd, 2009

Figure 2. Pulse velocity of concretes

Figure 3. Longitudinal resonance frequency of concrete cores

4 Conclusions
In this work, ASR damage in two concrete locks affected by ASR was investigated. According
to the initial results of NDT methods on concrete cores and the presence of cracks on the
surface of PS, it may be concluded that it has been already affected by ASR damage. But ASR
progression was too low to affect the properties of concrete. The results of expansion tests on
SCL showed the very high reactivity of aggregate present in this concrete lock that may cause
serious durability problems in concrete at longer age. Measurement of resonance frequency,
which correlates very well with residual expansion, can be used in laboratory to assess the
deterioration progress in concrete affected by ASR. These measurements are easier to perform
than expansion measurements.
NDTCE’09, Non-Destructive Testing in Civil Engineering
Nantes, France, June 30th – July 3rd, 2009

This project is supported by NSERC industrial Chair on NDT of concrete structure and by the
Fonds québécois de recherche sur la nature et les technologies (FQRNT).

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alkali aggregate reaction by ultrasonic methods”, In proceeding of the 7th international
concrete on Alkali-Silica Reaction in concrete, Ottawa, Canada, Published by Grattan-
Bellew, p 10-17.
2. Swamy, R.N. (1990) “The alkali-silica reaction in concrete”, pp 77-80.
3. Gallo, G., Popovics, J. (2006) “Application of ultrasonic surface waves to characterize
ASR damage in concrete”, 7th conference of the structural material technology for
highways and bridges, pp 301-308.
4. Saint-Pierre, F (2006) “Suivi de l’évolution de la réaction alcali-silice par méthode
ultrasonique, électrique et par tomographie ultrasonique”, Thesis of PhD (in French),
University of Sherbrooke.
5. Ludwig, U. (1981) “Theatrical and practical research on the alkali-silica reaction”, in
proceeding of the 5th international concrete on Alkali-Silica Reaction in concrete,
S252-24, pp1-7.
6. Monette, L., Gardner, J. and Grattan- Bellew, P. (2000) “In proceeding of the 11th
international concrete on Alkali-Silica Reaction in concrete”, Quebec (Canada), Edited by
M.A Bérubé, pp. 999-1008.
7. Bérubé, M.A., and Fournier, B. (2000) “Alkali-aggregate reaction in concrete”, Gordon &
Breach Publishers, Amsterdam.

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