Properties of cement-based materials in the presence of nano and microparticle additives
Puthur Jayapalan, Amal Raj
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Cement clinker production is a highly resource and energy intensive process and contributes substantially to annual global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. One potential pathway to reduce the environmental footprint of cement-based materials is through the reduction of clinker content in concrete by partial replacement of cement with fillers. In this investigation, the partial replacement of cement with chemically inert nano and microsized fillers of titanium dioxide (TiO₂) and limestone was examined. The effects of nano and micro fillers on early-age properties, long-term properties, photocatalytic properties (for TiO₂-cement mixtures) and life cycle costs were measured and compared. Investigation of early-age properties shows that nanoparticles increase rate and degree of early cement hydration and chemical shrinkage due to heterogeneous nucleation effect. In contrast, coarser microparticles (>3µm in this research) maintain or marginally decrease the rate and degree of early cement hydration and decrease chemical shrinkage due to a dilution effect. In addition, temperature sensitivity of hydration reactions increases in the presence of nanoparticles. Investigation of long-term properties shows that pore size refinement is possible with the partial replacement of cement with nanoparticle fillers. But the long-term tests of filler-cement mixes also demonstrate that, compared to ordinary portland cement mix, the strength decreases and permeability increases. Analysis of photocatalytic properties of TiO₂-cement mixtures showed a lack of an appropriate testing procedure for nitrogen oxide (NOₓ) gas conversion by cement-based materials. Thus, a new standardized procedure and photocatalytic efficiency factor for characterizing photocatalytic NOₓ binding by cementitious materials is proposed. Life cycle analysis demonstrates that although inclusion of TiO₂ increases initial environmental impact of cementitious materials, the innovative photocatalytic properties of TiO₂ could improve sustainability. Life cycle analysis also shows that partial replacement of cement with limestone decreases environmental impact of cementitious mixtures due to lower processing “costs” of limestone compared to cement. Thus, the results from the current research demonstrate that variation of dosage and particle size of inert fillers can be used to tailor properties and structure of cement-based materials and that environmental sustainability can be improved by partial replacement of cement with inert fillers that introduce additional functionalities or fillers with lower embodied-energy and emissions.