Volume 15 (2017) Issue 10 Pages 627-643
This work reports on the synergetic effect of water-to-cement ratio, curing conditions, varying external environment and stray current on the microstructural (porosity and pore size), electrical (resistivity) and mechanical (compressive strength) properties of 28 days-cured cement-based materials. The influence of curing on porosity and pore size, in stray current conditions, was assessed by correlating the performance of 28 days cured mortar with that of fresh (24h-cured only) mortar specimens in identical environmental medium.
Three different levels of electrical current density (i.e. 10mA/m2, 100 mA/m2 and 1 A/m2) were applied to simulate stray current flow through hardened mortar specimens with water-to-cement ratio of 0.5 and 0.35. Different environmental conditions were employed i.e. sealed conditions, partly immersed, and fully submerged in water and calcium hydroxide medium. Microstructural, mechanical and electrical properties were monitored in the course of 140 days. The outcomes suggest a potentially positive effect of the stray current, where water and/or humidity exchange with the external environment is restricted. The potential for this positive effect was experimentally supported through the recorded matrix densification and increased compressive strength of mortar specimens, subjected to stray current and treated in calcium hydroxide and/or sealed conditions, compared to equally handled and treated control cases.
In contrast, for water submerged mortar specimens, subjected to stray current, coarsening of the bulk matrix and reduced compressive strength were observed. The outcomes were irrespective of w/c ratio and curing conditions. The effect of stray current was found to be predominantly determined by the current density level and increased at values > 100mA/m2. This would result in compromised mechanical properties and potentially reduced performance of cement-based materials within service life. Therefore, concrete curing and conditioning on site need to include considerations for the potential effect of stray currents.