Multi-scale investigation of tensile creep of ultra-high performance concrete for bridge applications
Garas Yanni, Victor Youssef
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Ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) is relatively a new generation of concretes optimized at the nano and micro-scales to provide superior mechanical and durability properties compared to conventional and high performance concretes. Improvements in UHPC are achieved through: limiting the water-to-cementitious materials ratio (i.e., w/cm < 0.20), optimizing particle packing, eliminating coarse aggregate, using specialized materials, and implementing high temperature and high pressure curing regimes. In addition, and randomly dispersed and short fibers are typically added to enhance the material¡¦s tensile and flexural strength, ductility, and toughness. There is a specific interest in using UHPC for precast prestressed bridge girders because it has the potential to reduce maintenance costs associated with steel and conventional concrete girders, replace functionally obsolete or structurally deficient steel girders without increasing the weight or the depth of the girder, and increase bridge durability to between 75 and 100 years. UHPC girder construction differs from that of conventional reinforced concrete in that UHPC may not need transverse reinforcement due to the high tensile and shear strengths of the material. Before bridge designers specify such girders without using shear reinforcement, the long-term tensile performance of the material must be characterized. This multi-scale study provided new data and understanding of the long-term tensile performance of UHPC by assessing the effect of thermal treatment, fiber content, and stress level on the tensile creep in a large-scale study, and by characterizing the fiber-cementitious matrix interface at different curing regimes through nanoindentation and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in a nano/micro-scale study. Tensile creep of UHPC was more sensitive to investigated parameters than tensile strength. Thermal treatment decreased tensile creep by about 60% after 1 year. Results suggested the possibility of achieving satisfactory microstructural refinement at the same temperature input despite the maximum temperature applied. For the first time, the presence of a 10 Ým (394 micro inch) wide porous fiber-cementitious matrix interface was demonstrated by nanoindentation and SEM for non-thermally treated UHPC only. Tensile creep at 90 days increased by 64% and 46% upon eliminating fibers for thermally and non-thermally treated UHPC, respectively. Increases in creep upon reducing the fiber content suggested that fibers carry part of the sustained load and thus reduce creep. Tensile creep strain was proportional to the stress applied up to 60% of the ultimate strength. No tensile creep failure occurred for a period of 1 year for pre-cracked UHPC under stress level of 40%. Also, no tensile creep failure occurred for a period of 90 days under stress level of 60%. Tensile creep failure occurred at stress levels of 70% and 80%. This study showed that fibers cannot be accounted for as shear reinforcement in lieu of stirrups unless micro-defect-free fiber-matrix interface is achieved.