Rheology of cement based materials is controlled by the interactions at the particle level. The present study investigates the particle interactions and rheological properties of cement-based materials in the micro- and macro-scales. The cementitious materials studied are Portland cement (PC), fly ash (FA), ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBFS) and densified silica fume (SF).
At the micro-scale, aside from the forces on particles due to collisions, interactions of particles in a flowing system include the adhesion and friction. Adhesion is due to the attraction between materials and friction depends on the properties of the sliding surfaces. Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) is used to measure the adhesion force and coefficient of friction. The adhesion force is measured by pull-off force measurements and is used to calculate Hamaker constants. The coefficient of friction is measured by increasing the deflection set-points on AFM probes with sliding particles, thereby increasing normal loads and friction force. AFM probes were commercial Si3N4 tips and cementitious particles attached to the tips of probe cantilevers. SF was not included in the micro-scale tests due to its limiting size when attaching it to the AFM probes. Other materials included in the tests were silica, calcite and mica, which were used for verification of the developed test method for the adhesion study. The AFM experiments were conducted in dry air and fluid environments at pH levels of 7, 8, 9, 11 and 13. The results in dry air indicate that the Hamaker constant of Class F FA can be similar to PC, but Class C FA can have a high Hamaker constant, also when in contact with other cementitious materials. The results in fluid environments showed low Hamaker constants for Class F fly ashes compared to PC and also showed high Hamaker constants for PC and Class C fly ash. The results for the friction test in dry air indicated that the coefficient of friction of PC is lower than fly ashes, which is attributed to the asperities present on the particle surface.
At the macro-scale, flow of cementitious materials may be in its dry or wet state, during transport and handling or when it is used in concrete mixtures, respectively. Hence, the behavior of bulk cementitious materials in their dry state and wet form are studied. In the dry state, the compression, recompression and swell indices, and stiffness modulus of plain and blended cementitious materials are determined by confined uniaxial compression. The coefficients of friction of the bulk materials studied are determined by a direct shear test. The results indicate that shape of particles has a great influence on the compression and shear parameters. The indices for PC blends with FA do not change with FA replacement, while it increases with GGBFS replacement. Replacement with GGBFS slightly decreases coefficient of friction, while replacement with FA significantly decreases coefficient of friction. At low SF replacement, coefficient of friction decreases. In wet state, unary, binary, ternary and quaternary mixes with w/b of 0.35, 0.45 and 0.55 were tested for yield stress, viscosity and thixotropy. It is found that fly ash replacement lowers the rheological properties and replacement with GGBFS and SF increases rheological properties.
The distinct element method (DEM) was employed to model particle interaction and bulk behavior. The AFM force curve measurement is simulated to validate the adhesion model in the DEM. The contact due to asperities was incorporated by considering the asperities as a percentage of the radius of the contacting particles. The results of the simulation matches the force-curve obtained from actual AFM experiments. The confined uniaxial compression test is simulated to verify the use of DEM to relate micro-scale properties to macros-scale behavior. The bulk stiffness from the physical experiments is matched in the DEM simulation. The particle stiffness and coefficient of friction are found to have a direct relation to bulk stiffness.
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