Ultra-accelerated assessment of alkali-reactivity of aggregates by nonlinear acoustic techniques
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This research develops two novel experimental techniques based on nonlinear acoustics/ultrasound to provide an ultra-accelerated characterization of alkali-reactivity of aggregates. Alkali-silica reaction (ASR) is a deleterious reaction occurring between reactive siliceous minerals present in some aggregates and alkalis mainly contributed by the cement, but also present in some deicing chemicals. With increasing reports of ASR-induced damage in transportation structures, there is a critical need for fast and reliable test methods for the screening of aggregates and aggregate/paste combinations. Currently, the accelerated mortar bar test (AMBT), which measures expansion, is the most commonly used test method. Also used is the concrete prism test (CPT), another expansion-based method, which requires at least one year testing time, limiting the practical utility of this method. In addition, petrographic analysis can be performed to identify potentially reactive minerals in aggregates but requires training and may not be appropriate for assessment of aggregate/paste combinations. Finally, linear acoustic methods such as wave speed and attenuation measurements can be used for the assessment of ASR, but the sensitivity of linear acoustic methods to ASR-induced damage is considered to be relatively low. Therefore, critical limitations exist in the existing test methods. In light of recent advances in nonlinear acoustics (which are more sensitive to small-scale damage than linear acoustics), the purpose of this research is the development and assessment of an accelerated method for evaluating the potential for alkali reactivity in aggregate and aggregate/paste combinations by combining advanced ultrasonic methods with standard test procedures. In fact, two nonlinear acoustic methods are developed under this research - nonlinear wave modulation spectroscopy (NWMS) and nonlinear impact resonance acoustic spectroscopy (NIRAS) - and are used to characterize the changes in material nonlinearity as a result of the progressive ASR damage during the standard mortar bar and concrete prism testing. Following the AMBT and CPT, nonlinear acoustic techniques are applied to both mortar bars and concrete prism samples. Nonlinearity parameters are defined as the indicator of growing ASR damage, and measurement results clearly show that these nonlinearity parameters are more sensitive to the ASR damage than the linear parameters used in the linear acoustic measurements, particularly at early ages. Different aggregates with varying alkali-reactivity are effectively distinguished with the proposed experimental techniques in a timely manner, particularly for those aggregates with similar levels of reactivity, as determined by AMBT. The effect of a Class C fly ash addition on nonlinear properties was also investigated using the NIRAS measurements through a comparison of test results between mortar samples blended with fly ash and without fly ash. As complementary supports of the experimental results, petrographic analyses and theoretical modeling are also performed, and these results are well correlated with results from the NWMS and NIRAS techniques. Through a comparison with results from accompanying expansion measurements and linear acoustic methods, the proposed nonlinear acoustic techniques show their advantages to accelerate the assessment of alkali-reactivity of aggregates. Under AMBT, reactive aggregates were identifiable as early as a few days of testing. With CPT, reactive aggregates were differentiated as early as a few weeks. Overall, the coupling of the developed nonlinear test methods with standard expansion tests suggests that test durations could be potentially reduced by half, especially for AMBT tests.