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Portland Cement

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Portland Cement


Chemical composition.

Portland Cement is made up of four main compounds: tricalcium silicate (3CaOSiO2), dicalcium silicate (2CaOSiO2), tricalcium aluminate (3CaOAl2O3), and a tetra-calcium aluminoferrite (4CaO Al2O3Fe2O3). In an abbreviated notation differing from the normal atomic symbols, these compounds are designated as C3S, C2S, C3A, and C4AF, where C stands for calcium oxide (lime), S for silica, A for alumina, and F for iron oxide. Small amounts of uncombined lime and magnesia also are present, along with alkalies and minor amounts of other elements


The most important hydraulic constituents are the calcium silicates, C2S and C3S. Upon mixing with water, the calcium silicates react with water molecules to form calcium silicate hydrate (3CaO 2SiO23H2O) and calcium hydroxide (Ca [OH] 2). These compounds are given the shorthand notations C-S-H (represented by the average formula C3S2H3) and CH, and the Hydration reaction can be crudely represented by the following reactions:

2C3S + 6H = C3S2H3 + 3CH

2C2S + 4H = C3S2H3 + CH

During the initial stage of hydration, the parent compounds dissolve, and the dissolution of their chemical bonds generates a significant amount of heat. Then, for reasons that are not fully understood, hydration comes to a stop. This quiescent, or dormant, period is extremely important in the placement of concrete. Without a dormant period there would be no cement trucks, pouring would have to be done immediately upon mixing.

Following the dormant period (which can last several hours), the cement begins to harden, as CH and C-S-H are produced. This is the cementitious material that binds cement and concrete together. As hydration proceeds, water and cement are continuously consumed. Fortunately, the C-S-H and CH products occupy almost the same volume as the original cement and water; volume is approximately conserved, and shrinkage is manageable.

Although the formulas above treat C-S-H as a specific stoichiometry, with the formula C3S2H3, it does not at all form an ordered structure of uniform composition. C-S-H is actually an amorphous gel with a highly variable stoichiometry. The ratio of C to S, for example, can range from 1:1 to 2:1, depending on mix design and curing conditions.

Structural properties.

The strength developed by portland cement depends on its composition and the fineness to which it is ground. The C3S is mainly responsible for the strength developed in the first week of hardening and the C2S for the subsequent increase in strength. The alumina and iron compounds that are present only in lesser amounts make little direct contribution to strength. Set cement and concrete can suffer deterioration from attack by some natural or artificial chemical agents. The alumina compound is the most vulnerable to chemical attack in soils containing sulfate salts or in seawater, while the iron compound and the two calcium silicates are more resistant. Calcium hydroxide released during the hydration of the calcium silicates is also vulnerable to attack. Because cement liberates heat when it hydrates, concrete placed in large masses, as in dams, can cause the temperature inside the mass to rise as much as 40 C (70 F) above the outside temperature. Subsequent cooling can be a cause of cracking. The highest heat of hydration is shown by C3A, followed in descending order by C3S, C4AF, and C2S.

Types of Portland cement.

Five types of portland cement are standardized in the United States by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM): I. Ordinary, II. Modified. III. High early strength, IV. Low heat, and V. sulfate-resistant. In other countries Type II is omitted, and Type III is called rapid-hardening. Type V is known in some European countries as Ferrari cement.

ASTM type and name Characteristics Applications

I. Ordinary No special requirements General construction (e.g. sidewalks)

II. Modified Moderate sulfate resistance, moderate heat hydration Draining systems, sea walls, floor slabs, foundations

III. High early strength Higher strength soon after pouring Cold weather constructions

IV. Low Heat Low heat hydration Massive structures (e.g. dam)

V. Sulfate resistant High sulfate resistance Foundations in high sulfate soils

Manufacture of Cement

There are four stages in the manufacture of portland cement: (1) crushing and grinding the raw materials, (2) blending the materials in the correct proportions, (3) burning the prepared mix in a kiln, and (4) grinding the burned product, known as "clinker," together with some 5 percent of gypsum (to control the time of set of the cement). The three processes of manufacture are known as the wet, dry, and semidry processes and are ...

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