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Investigation of additive incorporation on rheological, microstructural and mechanical properties of 3D printable alkali-activated materials

Chougan, Mehdi; Ghaffar, Seyed Hamidreza; Sikora, Pawel; Chung, Sang-Yeop; Rucinska, Teresa; Stephan, Dietmar; Albar, Abdulrahman; Swash, Mohammad Rafiq

This study investigates the addition of Poly-vinyl Alcohol (PVA) fibres and attapulgite nanoclay to alkali-activated materials (AAMs) with the aim of enhancing the mechanical performance and optimizing the printability and buildability of AAMs. The fresh properties of six mix formulations, including flowability, slump values, rheology, shape retention, and extrusion window, were evaluated. The best performing mixes, that exhibited optimal fresh properties, were 3D printed, and their mechanical performance, microstructure, and buildability were investigated. The addition of 1 wt.-% attapulgite nanoclay (i.e. A-1) showed the desirable fresh properties required for 3D printing, as well as providing sufficient mechanical reinforcement to the samples. The 3D printed A-1 samples showed an improved flexural and compressive strength by 43% and 20%, respectively, compared to both the casted and printed control mixes. Moreover, microstructure analysis, including SEM, Rapidair measurement, and micro-CT, provided evidence of the compatibility by showing the lowest pores anisotropy and mixture homogeneity, between attapulgite and AAMs.
Published in: Materials & Design, 10.1016/j.matdes.2021.109574, Elsevier