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Concrete is one of the most commonly used construction materials in the world.

Wherever there is any


inkling of infrastructure, one can almost always find concrete there as well. Not all concrete is the
same, however. There are various types of concrete that exist in the world for numerous uses. One of
the oldest concrete recipes from the Romans was a mix of volcanic ash and hydrated lime. But it has
been a few centuries since then; in that time, concrete has developed and has become both advanced
and increasingly diverse.

Modern Concrete
Most commonly, regular concrete is created by mixing Portland cement with both an aggregate and
water-chemical mixtures. Often times, cement and concrete are incorrectly interchanged: concrete is
the hard, rock-like substance that is so frequently seen in urbanized areas. Cement is an ingredient, the
powder, used in the creation of concrete. It is the most-produced material on Earth and will continue to
be so long as there is a need to create, rebuild, or improve infrastructure.

High-Strength Concrete
High-strength concrete is different from normal-strength concrete in the amount of force it can resist
without breaking. The American Concrete Institute differentiates high-strength from normal-strength at
a compressive strength of over 6,000 psi (pounds square inch). In addition to varying the proportions of
the materials used in normal-strength concrete, silica fume is added to the mixture in order to
strengthen the bond between the cement and the aggregate. However, this admixture causes the cement
to hydrate much faster, meaning that it dries quicker than usual. In order to keep consistent the balance
between workability and strength, a superplasticizer is added to high-strength concrete. This slows
down the chemical reaction between the cement and water, allowing for workers to place the concrete
at a more effective pace[1].

High-Performance Concrete (HPC)


High-performance concrete, in contrast to high-strength concrete, is not necessarily known for its
compressive resistance. While high-performance concrete can include a high compressive strength,
other characteristics used to define “high performance” are the ease of placement without affecting
strength, long-term mechanical properties, toughness, and longevity in various weather conditions
among others[2].

Ultra High-Performance Concrete


This type of concrete is more often than not pre-mixed in bags because of the numerous ingredients
needed to make it. It includes Portland cement, silica fume, quartz flour, and fine silica sand. However,
high-range water reducers, water, and other steel or organic fibers are used to increase the strength of
the mixture. Ultra-high performance concrete is particularly durable because of the combination of fine
powders. Other types of concrete normally need a steel rebar or reinforcing to retain the intended
structure, but UHPC is generally self-placing in addition to its incredible compressive strength of up to
29,000 psi.[3] Its post-cracking longevity is one of UHPC’s strong points because even after this
concrete cracks, it still is able to maintain structural integrity with an impressive tensile strength of 725
psi.[4]

Stamped Concrete
Stamped concrete is another type of concrete that is very commonly used. Often seen in parking lots,
pavements, or other like high-traffic areas, stamped concrete has more of an architectural application.
Once concrete has been laid, a kind of mold can be placed on top of, or stamped, onto the hardening
concrete to create the appearance of natural stone. Once the floor has been hardened, it will likely be
sealed to increase the longevity of the dried mixture.

Self-Consolidating Concrete
Normally, concrete requires a mechanical vibration while being set in order to release excess air that
may be in the mixture. Self-consolidating concrete eliminates the need for mechanical consolidation
(the vibrations) mainly through its malleable viscosity. Being able to control the flowability and
stability, as achieved by using high-range-water-reducing admixtures, allows concrete to be placed
quicker. Not only does this save time, but because there is no need for the mechanical consolidation,
self-consolidating concrete saves labor, saves money, and makes it easier for workers to fill restricted
or hard-to-reach areas. [5]

Shotcrete
Invented by taxidermist, Carl Akeley in 1907[6], the initial dry method for placing shotcrete was by
using a compressed air nozzle to shoot dry mix and injecting water through a separate hose at the head
of the nozzle while the dry material is hurled toward the wall. The wet-mix shotcrete was developed
later in the 1950’s and is only slightly different than the dry-mix shotcrete wherein dry-mix shotcrete
involves the continuous feeding of a hopper through which dry mix would shoot through a nozzle and
mix at the point of exit. Wet-mix shotcrete, however, involves the use of pre-mixed concrete. The
concrete has already been prepared and therefore only involves one pump. The upside to using wet-mix
shotcrete is that dry-mix shotcrete creates more waste (excess powder that falls to the floor), more
rebound off the wall, and wet-mix shotcrete can place a larger quantity in a smaller amount of time.[7]

Limecrete
Also known as lime concrete, limecrete is a type of concrete where instead of using cement in the mix,
lime is replaced. Doing so has certain benefits environmentally and health-wise. Environmentally, lime
absorbs carbon dioxide as it sets and allows natural products like wood, straw, and hemp to be used as
fibers without fear of composting or deterioration since limecrete controls moisture. In terms of health,
lime plaster draws moisture out from inside which means that humidity control is more regulated,
resulting in mold growth prevention. Furthermore, limewash and lime plasters are non-toxic so they do
not contribute to air pollution inside like other paints would.
Pozzolans are silicate-based materials that react with (consume) the calcium hydroxide generated by
hydrating cement to form additional cementitious materials.
Why is consuming calcium hydroxide a good thing? Calcium hydroxide (lime) accounts for up to 25%
of the hydrated Portland cement, and lime does not contribute to the concrete’s strength or durability.
Pozzolans combine with the lime to produce additional calcium silicate hydrate, the material
responsible for holding concrete together. By consuming the excess lime:
• The strength of the concrete is increased
• Its density is increased
• Efflorescence is decreased
• The propensity for alkali-silica reaction (reaction with glass) is decreased, or even virtually
eliminated
Typically pozzolans are used as cement replacements rather than cement additions. Adding pozzolans
to an existing concrete mix without removing an equivalent amount of cement increases the paste
content and decreases the water/cement ratio. In other words, adding more pozzolans to a mix changes
the mix proportions. Replacing some of the cement with pozzolans preserves the mix proportions.
Pozzolans replace cement pound for pound.
Depending upon the particle size, chemical composition and dosage, different pozzolans will affect the
concrete strength differently and at different times during curing.

Left to right: Class C fly


ash, Metakaolin, Silica Fume, Class F fly ash, Slag, Calcined Shale. From the Portland Cement
Association
Typical pozzolans include:
• metakaolin
• silica fume
• fly ash
• slag
• VCAS (vitrified calcium alumino-silicate)

Of these, silica fume is the most reactive, with metakaolin being close to silica fume in terms of
reactivity. Fly ash is less reactive, especially during the first few days of curing when less calcium
hydroxide is generated.
Generally the finer the pozzolan particles are, the more reactive they are. Silica fume is the finest with
most particles averaging 0.3 µm (microns), metakaolin averages about 4 µm, Portland cement averages
about 15 µm, and fly ash about 70 µm.
Many pozzolans are waste products from industrial processes. Fly ash comes from coal-fired power
plants, and silica fume and slag comes from some steel refineries. As such the color, quality, gradation
and properties can vary and are not controlled.
VCAS and metakaolin are purposefully manufactured pozzolans. Quality, color and other
characteristics can be controlled, so product consistency is greater. There may also be different grades
available.
I recommend and sell VCAS because it is white, recycled and enhances workability. Purchase VCAS
here.
Most pozzolans are used individually, but blends of two or more different pozzolans can be used to take
advantage of the characteristics each pozzolan offers. Typical examples are fly ash and silica fume
blends, where the fly ash increases workability and particle packing and the silica fume helps with
early strength and total strength development.
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Portland concrete

The ASTM has designated five types of portland cement, designated Types I-V.
Physically and chemically, these cement types differ primarily in their content of C3A
and in their fineness. In terms of performance, they differ primarily in the rate of early
hydration and in their ability to resist sulfate attack. The general characteristics of
these types are listed in Table 3.7. The oxide and mineral compositions of a typical
Type I portland cement were given in Tables 3.4 and 3.6.

Table 3.7. General features of the main types of portland cement.

Classification Characteristics Applications


General purpose Fairly high C3S content for General construction
Type I
good early strength (most buildings, bridges,
development pavements, precast units,
etc)

Moderate sulfate Low C3A content (<8%) Structures exposed to soil


Type II
resistance or water containing
sulfate ions

High early strength Ground more finely, may Rapid construction, cold
Type III
have slightly more C3S weather concreting

Type IV Low heat of hydration Low content of C3S Massive structures such as
(slow reacting) (<50%) and C3A dams. Now rare.

High sulfate resistance Very low C3A content Structures exposed to high
Type V
(<5%) levels of sulfate ions

White color No C4AF, low MgO Decorative (otherwise has


White
properties similar to Type
I)

The differences between these cement types are rather subtle. All five types
contain about 75 wt% calcium silicate minerals, and the properties of mature concretes
made with all five are quite similar. Thus these five types are often described by the
term “ordinary portland cement”, or OPC.

Types II and V OPC are designed to be resistant to sulfate attack. Sulfate attack is
an important phenomenon that can cause severe damage to concrete structures. It is a
chemical reaction between the hydration products of C3A and sulfate ions that enter the
concrete from the outside environment. The products generated by this reaction have a
larger volume than the reactants, and this creates stresses which force the concrete to
expand and crack. Although hydration products of C4AF are similar to those of C3A,
they are less vulnerable to expansion, so the designations for Type II and Type V
cement focus on keeping the C3A content low. There is actually little difference
between a Type I and Type II cement, and it is common to see cements meeting both
designations labeled as “Type I/II”. The phenomenon of sulfate attack will be discussed
in much more detail in Sections 5.3 and 12.3, but it should be noted here that the most
effective way to prevent sulfate attack is to keep the sulfate ions from entering the
concrete in the first place. This can be done by using mix designs that give a low
permeability (mainly by keeping the w/c ratio low) and, if practical, by putting physical
barriers such as sheets of plastic between the concrete and the soil.

Type III cement is designed to develop early strength more quickly than a Type I
cement. This is useful for maintaining a rapid pace of construction, since it allows cast-
in-place concrete to bear loads sooner and it reduces the time that precast concrete
elements must remain in their forms. These advantages are particularly important in
cold weather, which significantly reduces the rate of hydration (and thus strength gain)
of all portland cements. The downsides of rapid-reacting cements are a shorter period
of workability, greater heat of hydration, and a slightly lower ultimate strength.

Type IV cement is designed to release heat more slowly than a Type I cement,
meaning of course that it also gains strength more slowly. A slower rate of heat release
limits the increase in the core temperature of a concrete element. The maximum
temperature scales with the size of the structure, and Type III concrete was developed
because of the problem of excessive temperature rise in the interior of very large
concrete structures such as dams. Type IV cement is rarely used today, because similar
properties can be obtained by using a blended cement.

White portland cement (WPC) is made with raw ingredients that are low in iron
and magnesium, the elements that give cement its grey color. These elements
contribute essentially nothing to the properties of cement paste, so white portland
cement actually has quite good properties. It tends to be significantly more expensive
than OPC, however, so it is typically confined to architectural applications. WPC is
sometimes used for basic cements research because the lack of iron improves the
resolution of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) measurements.