Volume 15 (2017) Issue 6 Pages 244-268
This work reports on the development of microstructural and mechanical properties of mortar cubes under the synergetic action of stray current and various environmental/curing conditions. The study refers to specimens cured for 24h only, followed by a 112 days period of partial or full submersion in water or alkaline medium. Additionally, equally prepared mortar specimens were tested in sealed conditions. The outcomes for submerged and saturated conditions were compared to sealed conditions. Three current density regimes were employed i.e. 1 A/m2, 100 mA/m2, and 10 mA/m2, simulating different levels of stray (DC) current environment. The highest level of 1A/m2 was also comparable to stray current densities, as measured in field conditions. The tests were designed in a way, so that the effects of diffu-sion-controlled transport (ions leaching due to concentration gradients), were distinguished from migration-controlled ones (ion/water transport in stray current conditions). Mechanical, microstructural and electrical properties were moni-tored throughout the test. For water-conditioned specimens, the stray current was found to accelerate degradation pro-cesses. This was reflected by decreased compressive strength, reduced electrical resistivity and increased porosity of the matrix. The results were attributed to leaching-out of alkali ions due to concentration gradients, where except diffusion, migration took place i.e. the leaching-out effect was accelerated by water and ions migration in conditions of stray cur-rent flow. In contrast, stray current flowing through mortar in sealed conditions (as well as through mortar in alkaline medium) resulted in increased compressive strength and electrical resistivity. These were accompanied by densification of the bulk matrix and reduced porosity. It can be concluded that for a cement-based material at early hydration age, both positive and negative effects of stray current flow can be expected. The level and direction of these effects are dependent on the external environment and the current density levels, where stray currents above 100 mA/m2 and in conditions of concentration gradients with the external medium, would lead to more pronounced negative effects on microstructural and micromechanical performance.