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Materials and Structures (2012) 45:851859

DOI 10.1617/s11527-011-9803-0


Flexural behavior of plain concrete beams strengthened

with ultra high toughness cementitious composites layer
S. L. Xu N. Wang X. F. Zhang

Received: 18 January 2010 / Accepted: 27 October 2011 / Published online: 29 November 2011
RILEM 2011

Abstract Ultra high toughness cementitious composites (UHTCC), which has metal-like deformation
and crack width restricting ability, is expected to be
utilized as retrofit materials. For this application, much
attention needs to be paid to the working performance
of structure members composed of UHTCC and
existing concrete. This paper presents an investigation
on the flexural behavior of plain concrete beams
strengthened with UHTCC layer in tension face. The
effect of UHTCC layer thicknesses on first crack load,
ultimate flexural load, crack width, and loaddeflection relationship is examined. The experimental
results indicate that the use of UHTCC layer significantly increases the first crack load and ultimate
flexural load. The first crack load and ultimate flexural
load of composites beams increased with the increase
of the UHTCC layer thickness. Considerable reduction in crack width was observed for composite
specimens, as UHTCC layer restricted the cracks in
upper concrete and dispersed them into multiple fine
S. L. Xu (&)
College of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Zhejiang
University, Hangzhou, Peoples Republic of China
N. Wang
Dalian Institute of Building Scientific Research & Design
Stock Co., LTD, Dalian, Peoples Republic of China
X. F. Zhang
Department of Civil Engineering, Dalian University of
Technology, Dalian, Peoples Republic of China

cracks effectively. Moreover, in comparison to plain

concrete beam, composite beams could sustain the
loading at a larger deflection without failure. Based on
the plane section assumption, etc., a calculation
method to predict the flexural capacity of composite
beam was proposed. Good agreement between predictions and experiments had been obtained.
Keywords UHTCC  Flexural strength 
Composite beams  Strengthening  Cracking

1 Introduction
Ultra high toughness cementitious composite (UHTCC)
is a fiber reinforced cement matrix composite material,
which exhibits strain hardening and multiple cracking
behaviors along with a significant tensile strain capacity
in excess of 3% in uniaxial tension [13]. Through a
micromechanically designed interaction between fibers,
matrix, and their interfacial bond, it could maintain load
carrying capacity after the first cracking. Load can be
transferred by fiber bridging from this crack plane back
into brittle matrix and cause the formation of another
crack, which may initiate from a different matrix defect
site. Repetition of this process creates the phenomenon
of multiple cracking with an intrinsically controlled
crack width limit on the order of 200 9 10-3 mm
during tensile loading [4, 5]. Moreover, the material has
superior impermeability, freezethaw and corrosion


resistance [6, 7]. It has been also found that the cracked
UHTCC could exhibit nearly the same permeability as
sound concrete, even when strained in tension to several
percent [8].
Therefore, UHTCC is expected to be utilized as
effective retrofit material. When using UHTCC as the
retrofit material in repair of existing concrete structures, this material could follow the movement of the
existing foundation. Moreover, even if cracks appear
in the retrofit material, crack width is restricted in a
small amount, e.g., \0.1 mm. This restriction is
expected to enhance the durability of retrofitted
structures against the attack of harmful substances.
In recent years, a number of full-scale applications of
UHTCC have been carried out in various countries.
Some notable applications include cast in place
UHTCC link slabs on bridge decks in US, repair of
the Mitaka Dam in Japan, irrigation channel repairs in
Japan, and sprayed UHTCC tunnel linings in South
Korea [911]. Although the development of UHTCC
material and field applications evolves, limited studies
have been reported on the working performance of
structure members composed of UHTCC and existing
concrete [12, 13]. The main objective of this study is to
investigate quantitatively different UHTCC layer
thickness affecting the first crack load, ultimate
flexural load, crack width, and the loaddeflection
relationship of composite beams in bending. The
experimental program is described in detail and the
most important results are presented and discussed.
Moreover, the calculated method is based on the plane
section assumption, etc., to predict the loadstrain
relationship of the beams.

2 Experimental study

Materials and Structures (2012) 45:851859

C50 and UH/C60 respectively. The concrete control

beams were denoted with Con.
The composite specimens were made by two steps.
Firstly, fresh concrete mix was cast into in rectangular
steel molds. The mix weight proportion of the concrete
material was 0.69:1:2.44:4 (water/Portland cement/
medium sand/coarse aggregate). The maximum particle size of medium sand and coarse aggregate is 5
and 10 mm, respectively. Then the molds vibrated
were removed to indoor. After 24 h, concrete specimens were sent to standard curing room. For the
purpose of comparison, plain concrete beams were
also cast as control specimens. Secondly, surface
treatments of concrete specimens needed to be
finished after curing age of 28 days. The handchiseled was adopted. The interface roughness, measured by traditional sand replacement method, was
0.91.2 mm. Loose concrete scraps and dust were
subsequently removed and the surface was further
cleaned by common industry water. Then the surface
was damped and achieved the water-saturated state.
Cast fresh UHTCC on the concrete specimens placed
in molds, and cure them for 28 days. At the time of
testing, the concrete had a cubic compressive strength
of 18 MPa. UHTCC used in bending face had the
cracking tension strength of 4 MPa, ultimate tension
strength of 5.98 MPa and cubic compressive strength
of 39 MPa.
2.2 Testing procedures
The test setup shown in Fig. 1 was used. The hydraulic
testing machine with a capacity of 1,000 kN was used,
and the load was transmitted to the beam through two
circular shafts. Displacement control, at a rate of
0.2 mm/min, was used in the test. The applied load
was measured by the load cell. The mid-point

2.1 Materials and specimens preparation

Four-point bending tests were conducted up to failure
on three plain concrete control beams and 21 plain
concrete beams strengthened with post-poured
UHTCC layer on the tension face. The length, width,
and depth of all control/composite beams were kept as
400 9 100 9 100 mm3. Eight types of UHTCC layer
thickness5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 mmwere
used. The composite specimens were designated as
UH/C5, UH/C10, UH/C20, UH/C30, UH/C40, UH/

Fig. 1 Dimensions of test specimens and test setup (dimensions in mm)

Materials and Structures (2012) 45:851859


deflections were measured using linear variable

differential transducers (LVDTs). The strain gauges
were pasted on the interface between UHTCC and
concrete, and the bending face of beam, as shown in
Fig. 1. The load cell, LVDTs, and the strain gauges
were connected through a data acquisition system to a
computer and the data was recorded and stored in the

3 Experimental results
3.1 Failure modes
Two different failure modes were observed in the
tested specimens. One was the flexural failure
mode, which was similar to the flexural failure of
an under-reinforced reinforced concrete (RC) beam;
the other was the shear failure mode, in which
inclined cracks from the support towards the loading
point locating the same side were observed and
eventually resulted in failure of beam. The transition
of failure mode from flexure to shear depended on the
thickness of UHTCC layer. In general, the specimens
with thin UHTCC layer failed in flexural failure mode,
but the shear failure happened in the specimens having
thick UHTCC layer.
Vertical crack

No concrete crush


Inclined crack

Concrete crush


Fig. 2 Failure mode in composite beams. a Flexural failure
mode and b shear failure mode

Figure 2a and b shows two photographs of the

tested specimens which failed in flexural failure mode
and shear failure mode, respectively. For the specimens in flexural failure mode as shown in Fig. 2a, both
cracking in UHTCC and crack development occurred
in the pure moment region of the specimens and no
cracks were observed in the shear span zone. At
failure, no crush in compression zone of concrete took
place, but the UHTCC material in tension zone
reached its ultimate tensile strain and macro cracks
appeared. In contrast, significant shear crack in shear
span zone and crushing of concrete in the compressive
region of the specimens were observed in the specimens with shear failure mode, as illustrated in Fig. 2b.
As mentioned previously, UHTCC exhibited strain
hardening property and still could sustain tension load
after post-cracking. Therefore, it could be imaged that
as UHTCC layer thickness increases the load carrying
capacity would increase. As a result, it was likely that
shear crack appeared before concrete crushing, when
the thickness of UHTCC layer approached to some
3.2 Loaddeflection curves
Typical bending test results in terms of loaddeflection curves for all specimens are displayed in Fig. 3.
The test results indicated that there was significant
influence of the UHTCC layer thickness on the
flexural performance of the composite beams. For
the specimens with UHTCC layer of no more than
10 mm thick, loaddeflection curves could go up
linearly before cracking of beams, but once cracking
happened in beams load firstly descended with the
additional deflection and then rises but not exceeds the
initial cracking load, as shown in Fig. 3b and c. The
possible reason for this was that flexural tension
fracture failure in UHTCC layer occurred before the
strain at the extreme compression top of beam reached
the ultimate compression strain of concrete. While for
the specimens with UHTCC layer of greater than
20 mm thick, the energy contributed due to the
sustaining higher level loading after initial cracking
in UHTCC was large so that beams could carry a load
of higher than initial cracking load although there still
existed the decrease in load after initial cracking in
beams. It also could be noticed that with the increasing
of UHTCC layer thickness, the extent of the decrease
in load after initial cracking in beams was less


Fig. 3 Loaddeflection curves of specimens

Materials and Structures (2012) 45:851859

Materials and Structures (2012) 45:851859


significant, especially when UHTCC layer thickness

was equal to certain value, about 30 mm, no decrease
in load after initial cracking took place in beams. In
reality, when the UHTCC layer thickness was larger
than 40 mm, the shear failure instead of flexural
tension failure occurred in beams.

Figure 4 shows the comparison of initial cracking load

and ultimate load obtained from the experiment. In
this figure, solid circle indicates initial cracking load
of beams and solid triangle denotes peak point of
envelope curves, which is defined as the ultimate load

3.3 Initial cracking load and ultimate load-bearing


3.4 Interface crack kinking

Different from brittle failure mode of concrete, the

obvious strain hardening behavior of UHTCC under
tensile load ensured the applied load would not
decrease suddenly after the crack appeared. The width
of superficial crack on the tensile face maintained a
smaller value, and the fine flexural cracks had little
influence on the durability and strength of structure
[14, 15]. When the cracks \0.020.05 mm width
appeared in UHTCC layer, they were hardly observed
by naked eyes or apparatus. Therefore, the initial
cracking in this paper referred to the upper concrete
cracking or the width of UHTCC crack reaching to
0.02 mm on the tensile face. Usually the strain gauges
failed when a crack appeared on the surface of
concrete member. But the surface crack of UHTCC
member was finer than that of concrete member, the
strain gauges on the crack might not fail. Cracking of
concrete was still measured by strain gauges. And
cracking of UHTCC was measured using the instrument for crack width measurement. The summary of
experimental results, including the initial cracking
load, the ultimate load and the corresponding midpoint deflection of each group, are shown in Table 1.

During the loadings, the development of cracks in all

specimens was also observed. In general, the first crack
of the specimen occurred in the middle span. As the
load increased, there were more flexural cracks
appearing in the span. When the load reached some
value, the number of cracks would not increase. The
cracks started to extend to compressive zone until the
beam failed. Take UH/C5 for an example. The
development of cracks in UH/C5, which had only
5 mm thick UHTCC layer, is shown in Fig. 5. In the
right side of the figure, the enlarged view of selected
area at the side and the corresponding view obtained by
crack width observation instruments at the bottom of
beam are shown. Because UHTCC layer was too thin to
restrict the development of cracks in upper concrete
effectively, there was only one main crack appearing in
concrete and extending in limited area corresponding
to the main crack in UHTCC layer. When the cracking
in concrete met the UHTCC material, it was dispersed
into multiple fine cracks which were \0.06 mm wide
before approaching to the ultimate load. With the
applied load increasing, existing cracks open and new
cracks were progressively generated in UHTCC layer

Table1 Average of peak load and mid-point deflection in test



crack load

load (kN)









































Con concrete, UH/C5 UHTCC/concrete composite beams, in

which UHTCC layer thickness is 5 mm

Fig. 4 Variation of strength of composite beams with UHTCC

layer thickness


Materials and Structures (2012) 45:851859

Fig. 5 Crack pattern of UH/C5



Fig. 6 Idealized stressstrain diagrams for material used in beams. a Compressive stress-strain curve of concrete and b tensile stress
strain curve of UHTCC

until a saturation state of crack development in

UHTCC layer was achieved.

4 Calculation of flexural bearing capacity of beams

and experimental verification
To approximately estimate the magnitude of the
flexural bearing capacity of composite beams, the
elastic beam theory is adopted in this study [16, 17].
The main assumptions employed in the following
analysis are:

Cross section is considered to remain plane after

bending, i.e. plane section assumption.
Perfect bond between concrete and UHTCC is
assumed, i.e. no sliding between them occurs.
The tensile contribution of concrete is simplified
as a linear model, which ultimate tensile strength
was equal to one tenth of the compressive

strength. The stressstrain model of concrete

under uniaxial compression proposed by Rusch
is used, as shown in Fig. 6a. Namely,
 2 #
rc fc 2 
compressive for 0  ec  e0 ;
rc fc


compressive for e0  ec  eu :

Based on the stressstrain curve for UHTCC in

uniaxial tension [18, 19], the simplified bilinear
curve is assumed, as shown in Fig. 6b. Namely,

rt rtc

for 0  et  etc ;
rtu  rtc
et  etc
etu  etc

for etc  et  etu :

For concrete, e0 = 0.002; tested value of ultimate

compressive strain ecu = 0.005, cylinder strength

Materials and Structures (2012) 45:851859

fc = 18.0 MPa; tested value of ultimate tensile strain

etu-con = 0.008%; tested value of elastic modulus
Ec = 24.2 GPa.
For UHTCC, first-cracking tensile strength of UHTCC
rtc = 4.0 MPa; first-cracking tensile strain of
UHTCC etc = 0.025%; ultimate tensile strength of
UHTCC rtu = 5.98 MPa; ultimate tensile strain of
UHTCC etu = 4.2%; tested value of elastic modulus
Et = 18.8 GPa.


As the analysis procedure of composite beams was

basically the same, take UHTCC layer thickness of
30 mm as demonstration in this paper. Tensile properties of UHTCC are superior to concrete, so concrete
in the tensile area loses its strength firstly under the
loading. That means the location of the neutral axis of
composite beam is only in the concrete at this time. As
shown in Fig. 7, the tensile stressstrain relationship
of section at the moment based on the above

According to the above assumptions, utilize two

balance equations of force and moment, as given by
Eqs. 1 and 3 below. The flexural bearing capacity of
beam can be obtained.





Fig. 7 Tensile stressstrain distribution along beam depth

Fig. 8 Comparison between calculated and measured capacity

of composite beam


Materials and Structures (2012) 45:851859

Table 2 Comparisons between calculated and measured values of ultimate load


Measured (kN)










Average (kN)

Calculated (kN)

Error (%)













assumptions might generally be classified into the four

cases: (1) the strain of concrete and UHTCC was under
the peak compression and initial crack tensile strain of
themselves (Fig. 7a); (2) the strain of concrete was
under the peak compression and initial crack tensile
strain of itself, and the strain of UHTCC lied between
initial crack and ultimate tensile strain (Fig. 7b); (3)
the strain of UHTCC was same to that in Fig. 7b, and
the strain of concrete lied between the peak and
ultimate compression strain (Fig. 7c); (4) the strain of
concrete was same to that in Fig. 7c, and the strain of
UHTCC was over initial crack tensile strain (Fig. 7d).
And the ultimate bearing capacity of normal section
could be expressed as
That is



brxdx 0


5 Summary and conclusions


Take moments about point O (see Fig. 7), that is

brxxdx  Mu 
brxxdx 0

strain reached the ultimate tensile strain of UHTCC,

the composed beam failed. The experimental data
were limited due to the range of strain gages. In the
limited range, the calculated patterns coincide well
with the experiment results except the descending
stage of UH/C10. Once the concrete reached to the
ultimate strain, it was usually deemed to lose its
strength. Due to the restriction of the UHTCC layer,
the concrete of the composite beam still beard partial
load after cracking. In UH/C10, the high portion
concrete part had a great effect on the performance of
composite beam. So in the descending stage there
were great errors between calculated results and
experimental results. And Table 2 shows that the
error is \10% between the calculated ultimate load
and the load measured experimentally of the flexural
failure specimens.


where N = normal force, b = beam width, x = distance

from the bottom to an arbitrary point along the depth of
the beam, r(x) = stress at the point x, M = bending
moment, Mu = ultimate bending moment.
According to (2), the location of the neutral axis
depth could be obtained. Substituting the calculated
neutral axis depth into (4), the ultimate bearing
capacity of section could be calculated. Similarly,
the flexural bearing capacity during the other stages of
loading was also obtained. Figure 8 shows the comparison between calculated results and experimental
results in bending. In the figure, the strain was
measured at the bottom of beam. When the bending

The flexural behavior of plain concrete beams

strengthened with UHTCC layer has been analyzed
in this paper. The first crack load, ultimate flexural
load, crack width, and the loaddeflection relationship
were measured experimentally. The loadstrain relationship and ultimate flexural load of composite beams
were predicted theoretically. From the results, the
following conclusions are obtained:

The use of UHTCC enhances the flexural behavior and the flexural bearing capacity of composite
beams. Ultimate flexural load and initial cracking
load increased non-linearly with the increase of
UHTCC layer thickness. Even for specimens
with UHTCC layer thickness of merely 5 mm,
the ultimate load of composite beams could be
improved up to 135%. When UHTCC layer
thickness was more than 40 mm, the ultimate
load of beams increased at a slow rate.

Materials and Structures (2012) 45:851859




Evidence from the test results indicated that

application of UHTCC in the beam tension zone
could effectively prevent from the development
of macro cracks in upper concrete, and disperse
them into multiple fine cracks. It should be useful
for enhancing the durability of retrofitted structures against the attack of harmful substances.
From the analytical analysis, bearing capacity of
normal section in every stage of loading agreed
well with the experimental results. It revealed
that the simple elastic beam theory was applicable to determine the magnitudes of load-bearing
capacity of composite beams.
Different from the traditional fibre reinforced
concrete (FRC) or mortar, which is often used to
strengthen or rehabilitate the old concrete structures, UHTCC could not only increase the
strength of structures, but also improve the
overall ductility and prolong the appearance of
the macro cracks. And it is more suitable to
ordinary engineers, as the construction and the
previous preparation between repair material and
concrete are similar to those of new-old concrete.

Acknowledgments The authors like to express their gratitude

to the supports of the National Natural Science Foundation
(50438010) of China, Research on Public Welfare Technology
Application Projects of Zhejiang Province, China (2010

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