Hydro-Chemo-Mechanical Phase Field Formulation for Corrosion Induced Cracking in Reinforced Concrete


Steel corrosion induced cracking in reinforced concrete structures is often caused by volumetric straining at the steel-concrete interface. This volumetric strain is mainly controlled by the rate of generation of corrosion product, which depends on the diffusion of Cl and dissolved O2 as well as the chemical reaction at the steel-concrete interface. While many numerical modeling techniques have been proposed to tackle this complex phenomenon, most have been limited to using staggered solution schemes, where the diffusion, chemical reaction, mechanical strain, and crack fields are solved for separately. Unfortunately, such approaches introduce numerical errors that can lead to unrealistic predictions. Therefore, a coupled solution, is needed to remove the formulation induced errors and understand this complex phenomenon.

To provide a unifying solution framework for corrosion induced cracking in reinforced concrete, a phase field formulation is presented and implemented with FEM algorithms. The governing equations are derived from the system's free energy and Fick's law of diffusion. The proposed formulation was first validated in 1D by comparing the modeling results with the semi-analytical solution approximated via Laurent series to avoid singularities in the complex domain. 2D plane strain solutions to the embedded rebar undergoing corrosion induced cracking with pre-cracks are also presented and compared with the approximated solutions from linear elastic fracture mechanics theory (LEFM). The modeling of crack propagation enabled by the proposed formulation is also presented along with parametric studies to reveal the roles of the fracture toughness and permeability of the concrete on the corrosion induced cracking. A case study was also conducted on H-pile steel with concrete jackets to demonstrate the feasibility of modeling corrosion induced fracture in reinforced concrete structures with complex steel-concrete interfaces.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Research Center/Lab(s)

Center for High Performance Computing Research

Keywords and Phrases

Corrosion; Diffusion; Fracture; Phase-field modeling

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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Publication Date

01 Jun 2021