Carbonation of Concrete

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Carbonation of Concrete


Carbon dioxide from air can react with the calcium hydroxide in concrete to form calcium carbonate. This process is called carbonation, which is essentially the reversal of the chemical process of calcination of lime taking place in a cement kiln. Carbonation of concrete is a slow and continuous process progressing from the outer surface inward, but slows down with increasing diffusion depth.

Carbonatation has two effects: it increases mechanical strength of concrete, but it also decreases alkalinity, which is essential for corrosion prevention of the reinforcement steel. Below a pH of 10, the steel's thin layer of surface passivation dissolves and corrosion is promoted. For the latter reason, carbonatation is an unwanted process in concrete chemistry. It can be tested by applying phenolphthalein solution, a pH indicator, over a fresh fracture surface, which indicates non-carbonated and thus alkaline areas with a violet color.
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