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Journal of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering

2018; X(X): XX-XX
doi: 10.11648/j.XXXX.2018XXXX.XX
ISSN: 2637-3882 (Print); ISSN: 2637-3890 (Online)

Influence of Biomass Type on Physical and Thermal Properties of Cementitious Composites

Athanas KONIN*, Lucien ZONGO

Department of civil Engineering, UMRI 68, Felix HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY National Polytechnic Institute (INP-HB), Yamoussoukro,
Côte d’Ivoire (A. Konin), (L. Zongo)
* Corresponding author

Abstract: This paper aims to study the influence of biomass type on properties of cementitious composites. Rice husks and
borassus aethiopum mart. (rhun) fibers are used as aggregates for the manufacturing of these composites. Four plant
biomass based mortars rated B1, B2, F1 and F2 were studied. B1 and B2 were the mortar with fine or coarse aggregates of rice
husks, respectively, F1 and F2 corresponded to mortar with fine or coarse aggregates of rhun fibers. For each biomass, two
cement content were used. The experimental program included a wide range of testing methods such as : dry density, water
absorption and thermal properties. The results indicate that the density of biomass-based mortars increases with cement
content, regardless of biomass type. The results also demonstrate that physical properties of rhun fibers composites are
better than those based on rice husks.
On the other hand, the thermal properties (thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity) of rice husks composites are better
than rhun fibers composites. However, coarse aggregate mortars developped the best physical and thermal properties.
Relationships are established between thermal properties and dry density of these mortars. These relationships are
independent to the type of biomass. Otherwise, all the composites satisfy most recommended thermal insulation standards.

Keywords: rhun fibers, rice husks, cement, biomass, physical properties, thermal conductivity, thermal diffusivity

1 Introduction

In the field of construction, the waits toward materials are in a constant evolution. If previously, these materials were
sought mainly for their mechanical characteristics, the current tendency is the use of multifunctional composite materials.
Nowadays, due to environmental problems, a particular attention is paid to materials with a low environment impact. The
materials based on plant fibers are therefore the subject of great attention. Many research studies are conducted on the use
of natural fibers (coconut fibers, sisal, hemp, wood chips, diss fibers, etc.) in cementitious composites ([1-9]). The results have
indicated that the use of plant fibers in these materials improved the mechanical strengths (bending, compression, tensile,
etc.) and led to a significant reduction in the cost of these materials compared to the use of composites based on synthetic
fibers. Futhermore, previous work ([10-11]) have suggested that the improvement of composites mechanical properties was
only possible if some treatments of plant biomass were carried out such as: washing, spraying of adjuvant, incorporation of
sand, etc.
In Africa, dehulling of rice generates over 30% of waste consisting mainly of rice husks. These rice husks are rot-proof and
can not be used in livestock feed. A way of recovering this waste could be in cement based materials. The rhun (Borassus
aethiopum mart.) is a rot-resistant plant resource, resistant to termites and abundant in sub-Saharan Africa [12]. Previous
studies have shown that it could be used as reinforcement in concrete [13-14]. However, few work were devoted to the
technological development of these two biomasses (rice husks and rhun fibers), especially in cementitious composites.
This work aims to determine the physical and mechanical properties of composites made from rice husks and rhun fibers.
The nature of the plant biomass and the effect of the density of the composites obtained are also presented.

2 Materials and Methods

2.1 Raw materials

2.1.1 Cement

The cement CEM II/B 32.5 produced by CIM Faso (Burkina Faso) was used. The physical properties of cement are shown in
Table 1.

Table 1. Physical properties of cement

Designation Density (g/cm3) Specific area Blaine (cm²/g)

Ciment CEM II/B 32,5 3,01 3 155

2.1.2 Plant biomasses

The rhun fibers and rice husks used in this study were derived from the milling of the rhun’s trunk and the Bagrépol’s
factory of rice dehulling in Burkina Faso, respectively. Fibers and particles obtained were dried in the oven at 105 °C until a
constant mass was achieved. These biomasses were subsequently serial by sieving into four granular classes and mixed
according to the granular compositions presented in table 2. Aggregates obtained (Figure 1) did not undergo any chemical
treatment and were kept in a room maintained at a temperature of 20 °C. The physical characteristics of biomasses are
shown in table 3.

a) Aggregate of rice husks b) Rhun Fiber aggregate

Figure 1. Plant biomasses used in this study

Table2. Proportions used in granular compositions

Granular Class Fine Mix (MF) Coarse mix (MG)

[2,50 ; 5,00 16,67% 40%
[1,25 ; 2,50 16,67% 30%
[0,63 ; 1,25 33,33% 20%
[0,08 ; 0,63 33,33% 10%

Table 3. Physical properties of Plant biomasses

Fine Granular Mix (MF) Coarse granular mix (MG)

Rice balls Rhun fibers Rice balls Rhun fibers
Modulus of finesse 2,17 3,00
Density (g/cm3) 0,749 0,687 0,771 0,648

2.2 Method of developing composites

2.2.1 Formulation of composites

Four types of plant biomass-based mortars, rated B 1, B2 F1 and F2 were studied. Mortars B1 and B2 corresponded to
cement-based composites, rice husks and water, F 1 and F2, those containing cement, rhun fibers and water. Index 1 was used
for fine granular mixture and index 2, for the coarse one. Formulation of mortars resulted of changes made to the
composition of plant biomass-based mortars proposed by Asasutjarit et al. [4] that based on the optimization of composites
physical and mechanical properties. Water quantity in the mixtures was adapted to obtain the same workability for all
mortars. For each biomass, two mortars were manufactured by varying the cement content. Compositions of studied mortars
are presented in table 4.

Table 4. Ratio en poids des constituants dans les composites

Cement Dosage 1 (D1) Cement Dosage 2 (D2)

Constituents Ratio in the Mix Notation Constituents Ratio in the Mix Notation
Cement 2 Cement 4
B1 Rice husks 1 B1-D1 Rice husks 1 B1-D2
Water 0,8 Water 1,33
Cement 2 Cement 4
B2 Rice husks 1 B2-D1 Rice husks 1 B2-D2
Water 0,8 Water 1,33
Cement 2 Cement 4
F1 Rhun fibers 1 F1-D1 Rhun fibers 1 F1-D2
Water 1 Water 1,6
Cement 2 Cement 4
F2 Rhun fibers 1 F2-D1 Rhun fibers 1 F2-D2
Water 1 Water 1,6

2.2.2 Manufacturing of composites

For each composition, three prismatic specimens 40 mm x 40 mm x 160 mm were made for the measurement of physical
and mechanical characteristics. Mortars were manufactured according to procedure described below:
Cement was first mixed with plant biomasses, then water was added. Mortar mixing was done until a relatively
homogeneous mixture was obtained. The water dosage was adjusted to obtain a slump value equal to 10 cm on the fresh
mortar. The mixture was placed in the molds and compacted. The samples were demolded after 24 hours and placed in
ambient air for 28 days. For each characteristic, three test specimens were used for testing.

2.3 Experimental Program

2.3.1 Water absorption test

Water absorption was determined according to RILEM procedure [15]. The test specimens were immersed in tank
containing water until full saturation (i.e. until their wet mass (M h) was constant). The samples were subsequently dried in an
oven at 105 °C until a constant dry mass has been reached (M s). The rate of water absorption is obtained by the relationship:

( M h−M s )
w ( % )=100 ∙

2.3.2 Test for measuring the density

This property was measured according to the standard NF EN 772-13 [16]. The dimensions (length, width, height) of the
dried samples (Ms) were measured in four points according to standard. Which allowed to calculate the volume (V) of the
samples. The dry density is given by the formula:

3 Ms
ρ ( g/cm )=

2.3.3 Mechanical tests

The mechanical characteristics were determined in accordance with the standards NF EN 12390-3 [17] for compressive
strength and NF EN 12390-5 [18] for tensile strength by three-point bending. Bending tensile strength test

Test for measuring tensile strength by three-point bending was carried out on specimens 40 mm x 40 mm x 160 mm. The
load was applied at constant velocity of 10 mm/min on the surface of test piece and maximum load (P) causing the rupture
was measured. The tensile strength by bending is given by:

3 ∙ P∙ L
Rt ( MPa ) =
2 ∙ b ∙t 2
Where: P, maximum load (N); L, the length (mm) of the test piece; (b) The width of the test specimen; T, the thickness
(mm) of the test piece Compression resistance test

This resistance was determined by using the PERRIER compression press with a capacity of 300 kN. Tests were performed
on half of samples used to measure tensile strength by three-point bending.

3 Results and discussion

3.1 Physical properties

3.1.1 Dry density

The results of the composite density measurements are shown in table 5. These results show that the density of the
composites increases with the cement dosage regardless of the nature of the biomass. The increase varies from 24% to 32%
for aggregate-based mixtures and from 12% to 19% for coarse aggregate-based mixtures. In addition, the density of
composites based on coarse aggregates is higher than that of fine-grained composites for the 1-cement assay (small amount
of cement). On the other hand, for a higher cement dosage (cement dosage 2), the density values are in the same order of
magnitude. These results suggest the existence of a density limit value for plant biomass-based composites. The nature of
biomass does not have a major impact on density values. The differences are less than 10% for the different composites and
the different cement dosages. These results corroborate those obtained by Ghavami [18] and indicate that the use of plant
fibers allows the construction of composites that can be classified in light concrete because of their dry density. The most
important parameter in view of the results obtained is the cement dosage irrespective of the nature and the particle size of
the biomass.

Table5. Exemple d’un tableau

Density (g/cm3)
Cement Dosage 1 (D1) Cement Dosage 2 (D2)
Fine Mix (B1) 1,08 1,58
Rice balls
Coarse mix (B2) 1,27 1,45
Fine Mix (F1) 1,08 1,42
Rhun fibers
Coarse mix (F2) 1,19 1,47

3.1.2 Water absorption Rate

Figure 2 shows the rate of water absorption according to the density of the different composites studied. The graphs
clearly show that water absorption is inversely proportional to the increase in the density of the composites. This suggests
that an increase in the density of the samples leads to a decrease in the water absorption capacity and thus the porosity of
the composites. In addition, figure 2 shows that rhun fibers-based composites have lower water absorption rates than those
based on rice husks. Thus, it seems that the rhun fibers allow to obtain materials less porous than those based on rice husks.

Taux d'absorption d'eau (%)

C omposites Balles de riz-c iment

C omposites Fibres de rônier de riz-ciment






1 1,08 1,16 1,24 1,32 1,4 1,48 1,56 1,64
Masse volumique (g/cm3)

Figure 2. Rate of water absorption according to the density of the composites studied

3.2 Mechanical properties

Figures 3 and 4 show the results of the mechanical tests according to the density of the samples. These figures show that
the rhun fiber samples develop better mechanical resistances (both compression and flexural tensile) than those based on
rice husks. The increase in resistance is more than 15% in compression and in the order of 20% by bending. However, these
differences tend to be reabsorbed (less than 5%) with the increase in the density of the samples (due to an increase in the
amount of cement). This suggests that the density of the samples plays an important role in their mechanical properties in
relation to the type of plant biomass. Thus, the resistance differences are lower between these two materials when the
densities of these materials are of the same order of magnitude. These results are consistent with the work of Mounanga and
al. [19] which show the existence of correlations between compressive strength and dry density of hemp-based concrete.
This result can be applied to all plant biomasses.
Résistance à la compression (MPa)

Fibres de rônier Balles de riz Barres d'erreur






1 1,1 1,2 1,3 1,4 1,5 1,6

Masse volumique (g/ cm3)

Figure 3. Resistance to compression according to the density of the composites studied

Résistance à la traction par flexion (MPa)
Fibres de rônier Balles de riz Barres d'erreur





1 1,1 1,2 1,3 1,4 1,5 1,6

Masse volumique (g/ cm3)

Figure 4. Tensile strength by bending according to the density of the composites studied

4 Conclusion

In this work, the study of the physical and mechanical properties of composites based on rice husks and rhun fibers was
carried out. The main conclusions are:
 The size of plant biomass aggregates does not have a major role in the physical and mechanical properties of the
composites studied;
 The density of composites has a large impact on the mechanical properties of composites irrespective of biomass;
 Rhun fiber composites develop physical and mechanical properties better than those based on rice husks regardless
of the size of the biomass aggregate and the cement dosage;
 The composites studied fit well into the class of lightweight concrete.
This article confirms the possibility of using rhun fibers and rice husks as aggregate in the manufacture of biomass-based
composites. The results obtained allow us to envisage the upgrading of these wastes in cementitious materials in order to
make concretes of lightweight aggregates (based on biomass).


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