Durability of Pulp Fiber-Cement Composites
Mohr, Benjamin J.
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Wood pulp fibers are a unique reinforcing material as they are non-hazardous, renewable, and readily available at relatively low cost compared to other commercially available fibers. Today, pulp fiber-cement composites can be found in products such as extruded non-pressure pipes and non-structural building materials, mainly thin-sheet products. Although natural fibers have been used historically to reinforce various building materials, little scientific effort has been devoted to the examination of natural fibers to reinforce engineering materials until recently. The need for this type of fundamental research has been emphasized by widespread awareness of moisture-related failures of some engineered materials; these failures have led to the filing of national- and state-level class action lawsuits against several manufacturers. Thus, if pulp fiber-cement composites are to be used for exterior structural applications, the effects of cyclical wet/dry (rain/heat) exposure on performance must be known. Pulp fiber-cement composites have been tested in flexure to examine the progression of strength and toughness degradation. Based on scanning electron microscopy (SEM), environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM), energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), a three-part model describing the mechanisms of progressive degradation has been proposed: (1) initial fiber-cement/fiber interlayer debonding, (2) reprecipitation of crystalline and amorphous ettringite within the void space at the former fiber-cement interface, and (3) fiber embrittlement due to reprecipitation of calcium hydroxide filling the spaces within the fiber cell wall structure. Finally, as a means to mitigate kraft pulp fiber-cement composite degradation, the effects of partial portland cement replacement with various supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) has been investigated for their effect on mitigating kraft pulp fiber-cement composite mechanical property degradation (i.e., strength and toughness losses) during wet/dry cycling. SCMs have been found to be effective in mitigating composite degradation through several processes, including a reduction in the calcium hydroxide content, stabilization of monosulfate by maintaining pore solution pH, and a decrease in ettringite reprecipitation accomplished by increased binding of aluminum in calcium aluminate phases and calcium in the calcium silicate hydrate (C-S-H) phase.