Research investigates the “concrete cancer”
Results may contribute to a better understanding of the chemical reaction that causes the degradation of concrete structures
Concrete is the most used material in construction and, consequently, one of the most consumed materials by humankind. It can be part of virtually every type of construction, from homes to large infrastructures such as bridges and dams. The strength and durability of concrete depend on the proportion of its constituents: Portland cement, sand, gravel and water.
Cement is a fine powder produced from limestone and clay that, with addition of water, becomes a binder paste that hardens through a series of complex chemical reactions. After hardening, the concrete retains its structure even if it comes back in contact with water. Over time, however, concrete can be degraded by many physical and chemical factors.
The alkali-silica reaction (ASR), also known as “concrete cancer”, is a chemical reaction between silica present in aggregates and alkaline hydroxides formed from cement constituents. The product of this reaction is a hygroscopic gel that expands in the presence of water, generating mechanical stress and widespread cracking.