Influence of Pozzolanic Additives on Hydration Mechanisms of Tricalcium Silicate


Pozzolanic mineral additives, such as silica fume (SF) and metakaolin (MK), are used to partially replace cement in concrete. This study employs extensive experimentation and simulations to elucidate and contrast the influence of SF and MK on the early age hydration rates of tricalcium silicate (triclinic C3S), the major phase in cement. Results show that at low replacement levels (i.e., ≤ 10%), both SF and MK accelerate C3S hydration rates via the filler effect, that is, enhanced heterogeneous nucleation of the main hydration product (C-S-H: calcium-silicate-hydrate) on the extra surfaces provided by the additive. The filler effect of SF is inferior to that of MK because of agglomeration of the fine particles of SF, which causes significant reduction (i.e., up to 97%) in its surface area. At higher replacement levels (i.e., ≥ 20%), while SF continues to serve as a filler, the propensity of MK to allow nucleation of C-S-H on its surface is substantially suppressed. This reversal in the filler effect of MK is attributed to the abundance of aluminate [Al(OH)4-] ions in the solution--released from the dissolution of MK--which inhibit topographical sites for C-S-H nucleation and impede its subsequent growth. Results also show that in the first 24 hours of hydration, MK is a superior pozzolan compared to SF. However, the pozzolanic activities of both SF and MK are limited and, thus, do not produce significant alterations in the early age hydration kinetics of C3S. Overall, the outcomes of this study provide novel insights into the mechanistic origins of the filler and pozzolanic effects of SF and MK, and their impact on cementitious reaction rates.


Materials Science and Engineering


This research was conducted in the Materials Research Center (MRC) at Missouri S&T. The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support that has made these laboratories and their operations possible. Funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF, CMMI: 1661609), Materials Research Center (MRC) at Missouri S&T (MRC Young Investigator Seed Funding), and University of Missouri Research Board (UMRB).

Keywords and Phrases

C3S; filler effect; hydration kinetics; metakaolin; pozzolanic effect; silica fume

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0002-7820; 1551-2916

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2017 The American Ceramic Society, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Aug 2018