Mechanisms Underlying the Strength Enhancement of UHPC Modified with Nano-SiO₂ and Nano-CaCO₃


The unique physical and chemical properties of nano-particles can enhance the nature of cement-based materials at the micro-scale and nano-scale levels, leading to improved properties. To uncover the strengthening mechanism associated with various types of nano-particles, a laboratory investigation was undertaken to evaluate and compare the influence of nano-SiO2 and nano-CaCO3 on mechanical properties of ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) made with 2% steel fibers. Each type of nano-particle was incorporated at four contents, and the mini-slump flow of the UHPC was maintained at 240-260 mm. The microstructure of the matrix and the fiber-matrix interface of UHPC, as well as the features of hydration products were characterized using advanced techniques, such as electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), differential thermal gravimetric (DTG) analyses, 3D micro-tomography, and mercury intrusion porosimetry (MIP). Test results indicate that both the fiber-matrix strength and mechanical strength of UHPC increased with the increase of nano-SiO2 and nano-CaCO3 until threshold limits of 1% and 3.2%, respectively. The 28-d fiber-matrix bond, compressive, and flexural strengths of the optimal UHPC mixtures made with 3.2% nano-CaCO3 were approximately 40%, 10%, and 20%, respectively, greater than those of the reference mixture. These strength values were higher than those of UHPC made with 1% nano-SiO2. When used below these optimal nano-material contents, the filler and nucleation effects related of the nano-SiO2 and nano-CaCO3 promoted the strength development through improved density and homogeneity with optimized structure of hydration products, as indicated by SEM observation and DTG analysis. Beyond these limits, additional use of nano-materials resulted in increased volume of air voids and capillary pores and weak interfacial zones due to the agglomeration of nano-particles, which hindered strength development.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Fiber-matrix interface; Mechanical properties; Microstructure; Nano-CaCO 3; Nano-SiO 2; UHPC

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Article - Journal

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© 2020 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2021