Microstructural analysis of surface and interface zones in concrete
Several of OPC paste and concrete specimens, with different mix proportions, were cast against CPF and impermeable formwork (IF) and the profiles of pore structure, microhardness and scratch hardness of the cover zone were established. The chloride ingress and the depth of carbonation of the surface zone of concrete cast against CPF and IF were investigated. The main mechanisms controlling the ECR processes and the factors affecting such treatment were critically reviewed. Subsequently, as a means of restoring passivation of steel embedded in carbonated concrete, such HCP specimens were subjected to ECR. The influence of ECR on the chemistry of the pore solution and the microstructure of the surface and the steel/cement past interface zones were also studied. The main findings of this investigation were as follows: (a) The thickness of the microstructure gradient of cover concrete is significantly decreased with increasing period of water curing but is relatively unaffected by curing temperature, w/e ratio and the use of cement replacement materials. (b) The scratch hardness technique was shown to be potentially useful for characterising the microstructure and microhardness gradients of the surface zone. (c) A relationship between the microstructure gradient and mass transport properties of the surface zone was established. (d) The use of CPF resulted in a significant reduction in porosity of both the cement paste matrix and the aggregate/cement paste transition zone, and a marked improvement in the resistance of the surface zone to carbonation and the ingress of chloride ions. (e) The ECR treatment resulted in a marked densification of the pore structure and in changes to the pore solution chemistry and the cement phases of near-surface and steel/cement paste transition zones. This effect was more pronounced with current density, period of treatment and particularly with the use of sodium phosphate as an electrolyte.