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The performance of ultra-lightweight foamed concrete incorporating nanosilica

Elrahman, Mohamed Abd; Sikora, Pawel; Chung, Sang-Yeop; Stephan, Dietmar

FG Baustoffe und Bauchemie

This paper aims to investigate the feasibility of the incorporation of nanosilica (NS) in ultra-lightweight foamed concrete (ULFC), with an oven-dry density of 350 kg/m3, in regard to its fresh and hardened characteristics. The performance of various dosages of NS, up to 10 wt.-%, were examined. In addition, fly ash and silica fume were used as cement replacing materials, to compare their influence on the properties of foamed concrete. Mechanical and physical properties, drying shrinkage and the sorption of concrete were measured. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray microcomputed tomography (µ-CT) and a probabilistic approach were implemented to evaluate the microstructural changes associated with the incorporation of different additives, such as wall thickness and pore anisotropy of produced ULFCs. The experimental results confirmed that the use of NS in optimal dosage is an effective way to improve the stability of foam bubbles in the fresh state. Incorporation of NS decrease the pore anisotropy and allows to produce a foamed concrete with increased wall thickness. As a result more robust and homogenous microstructure is produced which translate to improved mechanical and transport related properties. It was found that replacement of cement with 5 wt.-% and 10 wt.-% NS increase the compressive strength of ULFC by 20% and 25%, respectively, when compared to control concrete. The drying shrinkage of the NS-incorporated mixes was higher than in the control mix at early ages, while decreasing at 28 d. In overall, it was found that NS is more effective than other conventional fine materials in improving the stability of fresh mixture as well as enhancing the strength of foamed concrete and reducing its porosity and sorption.