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SOME NOTES ON CONCRETE FATIGUE

s atrucatural design and analysis become more refined and as construction practices increase in efficiency there is an increased need for fundamental information on the behavior of concrete under loads other than static. Particularly there is a demand for more knowledge and understanding of concrete fatigue, which refers to the phenomenon of rupture under repeated loadings each of which is smaller than a single static load that exceeds the strength of the material. Fatigue is exhibited when a material fails under stress applied by direct tension or compression, torsion, bending or a combination of these actions. Metal fatigue has been under investigation for more than a century and a considerable amount of knowledge about it has been accumulated. But research on concrete fatigue is not only far less advanced, but also considerably less conclusive. Both structural and highway engineers are concerned with the behavior of concrete under repeated stress. Structural engineers have long used compression tests as a means of quality control and as a basis of physical properties for theoretical analysis of structures. Similar tests have been used to study fatigue and to relate standard compression strength to concrete endurance. Highway engineers appear to agree that concrete failure by cracking results from repetitive applications of stress. Fatigue tests have been applied to modulus of rupture specimens and those containing light reinforcement. The results of such tests are highly valuable in designing airport runways and taxiways, highway pavement and bridges. A test for fatigue involves the repetition of loads of different levels of stress to a specimen and the observation of the number of cycles needed to produce change at each level. The nature of fatigue experiments require that they be conducted over relatively long periods of time. They usually necessitate repetitive loadings through thousands of cycles and to be of maximum value require essentially identical tests on numerous varieties of concrete. Concrete quality itself is affected by the proportion of cement and aggregate, the quality of the mixing water, the thoroughness of mixing, care in placement, curing conditions and age. These factors can vary from job to job and in some cases within one job. In addition studies of reinforced concrete involve the consid-

eration of compression, diagonal tension in the shear zone, strength of the reinforcing steel and strength of bond between concrete and steel. Interrelationships of these elements are complex and thus far no theoretical explanation of them has been derived even for static loads. Consequently much fatigue experimentation has been exploratory and based on limited hypotheses. Fatigue investigations of plain and reinforced concrete, prestressed as well as ordinary, have sought to determine the effect of repeated tensile, compressive and flexural loads on ultimate strength and strain or deflection. Some studies have investigated bond resistance and some have been concerned with the resistance of concrete composed of lightweight aggregate. Research has been wide in scope, but much of it has been neither comprehensive nor conclusive. However enough experiments have been conducted to justify certain conclusions, however tentative, regarding the phenomenon of fatigue. Stress repetition and not the rate of strain appears to be the critical factor in fatigue. Although fatigue can result from static loadings of a cyclic nature as well as from dynamic loadings, statically applied stresses are seldom repeated sufficiently often to produce it. On the other hand, millions of cycles of stress can result from dynamic loadings of the oscillating type. Investigations to date on plain concrete subjected to repeated compressive loads ranging from zero to maximum compression indicate that resistance is 50 to 55 percent of the static ultimate or the ultimate crushing strength. Concrete subjected to repeated flexural loads has a similar resistance, although there has been found a variation from 33 to 64 percent depending on moisture,

aggregate and curing. The percentage 50 to 55 also applies to the relationship between the fatigue limit of concrete in tension and the modulus of rupture. In some studies intensity of load has been found to alter the modulus of elasticity of concrete. Other tests have indicated that concrete has a property that is similar to strain hardening in metal. Repetitive loads at less than fatigue strength in some experiments raised the fatigue strength and/or stiffened the specimen. Of particular interest to contractors, tests have shown that fatigue strength is vitally affected by age and curing. Concrete that is carefully cured and aged displays greater resistance to fatigue than concrete inadequately cured and aged. In addition, although data is not extensive, there are indications that concrete of a rich mix and a low water/cement ratio has a slightly higher fatigue strength. Fatigue strength appears to be little affected by the rate of testing above a certain cyclic frequency. Strength seems to decrease at rates as slow as about 10 cycles per minute. Tests have found the creep phenomenon to be closely related to long-time fatigue loading and the effects of the two are not easily separated. Test results are sketchy, but rest periods appear to increase the endurance of concrete and most permanent deformation has been found to occur during a tests early stages, within the first few thousand cycles. The strain appears to stabilize at fewer load cycles for properly aged and cured concrete than for young material. A decreased range of stress has been observed to increase substantially the upper limit of fatigue strength. Test results regarding bond have been erratic. Here fatigue failures have occurred at loads less than 55 percent of the ultimate static pull-out strength. It appears that strain increases at a decreasing rate with each cycle of load. After some number of cycles, if the strain ceases to increase then the failure of the concrete in fatigue is improbable. Recent experiments do appear conclusive regarding the endurance limit of concrete. Many early tests assumed that the material possessed an endurance limit similar to most metals. However it now appears that plain concrete in flexure, given an acceptable level of stress, possesses no endurance limit at least with loads up to 10,000,000 cycles. Because of the need to consider both steel and concrete, studies of fatigue in reinforced concrete thus far present a far from complete picture. Fatigue may occur either in the steel or in the concrete. In turn, concrete fatigue may be due to bond, diagonal tension or flexure. Fatigue in reinforced beams apparently is related to severe cracking and possible stress concentration and/or abrasion connected with the cracks. In some tests the endurance limit of beams critical in longitudinal reinforcement seemed to be 60 to 70 percent of static ultimate strength. Sometimes fatigue has been found

in diagonal tension but bond and shear combination problems obscured the real cause of the difficulty. Extensive fatigue loading of reinforced beams has in certain tests produced accumulated residual deflection but recovery during rest periods has also been observed. Fatigue in prestressed concrete has been found to be essentially similar to that in conventionally reinforced beams, and localized in the compression zone or in diagonal tension, in the prestressing steel, in bond, and for post-tensioned beams at the points of anchorage and splice. Fatigue of prestressed concrete appears to differ in one important respect: the variations in stress are small in the working load range but they seem to vary about some high mean stress in both the steel and the concrete. Fatigue tests on prestressed concrete have been less numerous and extensive than those on other types of material. For the most part they have been concentrated on the resistance of bond stresses and self-anchorages to fatigue loadings. No tests thus far reported produced concrete fatigue. Working stresses currently in use appear to render adequate protection. Metal fatigue rather than concrete fatigue was the reported cause in all failure observed. Where there was no fatigue in prestressed beams the ultimate strength for static loads appeared unaffected by repeated loadings. For most of the beams tested safety factors appear to be about 2 against fatigue. Prestressed beams appear to display greater resistance to fatigue loading than do conventional beams. However none of these conclusions can be viewed as final inasmuch as tests have not been extensive or exhaustive. Exploratory research on fatigue has been particularly valuable in revealing factors on which additional investigation is needed. Experiments on the fundamental properties of fatigue aimed to describe its mechanism are especially needed. An understanding of why fatigue occurs will aid immeasurably in the interpretation of data that now exists and in planning further experiments. In addition much work is needed on the influence of moisture, curing, rest periods, freezing and thawing, temperature cycles, admixtures, air entrainment and many other factors. The importance of greater understanding of concrete fatigue lies in the potential economic returns. Savings in construction could be considerable and translated into better customer service if the life of concrete subject to oscillating were increased.

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