The Constructor

Ultra-high-Performance Concrete: Characteristics, and Applications

Ultra-high-performance Concrete

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Ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC) is defined as ‘concrete that has a minimum specified compressive strength of 150 MPa with specified durability tensile ductility and tough­ness requirements; fibers are generally included to achieve specified requirements”, as per ACI 239R-18. Commonly, the UHPC consists of cement, silica fume, fine quartz sand, high range water reducing admixtures, steel fibers, and low water to cementitious materials ranging from 0.15 to 0.25. It is possible to employ different mixture with different constituent materials such as coarse aggregate and supplementary materials to improve a specific property of concrete. The mechanical properties of UHPC include compressive strength higher than 150 MPa, and sustained post cracking tensile strength greater than 5 MPa. Ultra-high-performance concrete durability is considerably superior to that of ordinary concrete since its pores are discontinuous, which declines liquid penetration. That is why this type of concrete is used in different civil engineering structures such as highway infrastructure applications and structural rehabilitation to address some of the main design, service life, and life cycle costing problems related to the use of concrete.

Strategies for UHPC Production

  1. Improve concrete homogeneity through the removal of coarse aggregate in the mixture.
  2. Optimize gradation and mixture proportions between principal components of the mixture to reduce void between particles of mix components, and hence the density of the concrete is improved.
  3. Increase concrete ductility by the introduction of steel fibers to the concrete mixture. Minimum 2% by volume of steel fibers are added to the mixture to overcome the brittleness of concrete. Factors such as fiber aspect ratio, shape, and UHPC production issues like workability control the maximum fiber content.
Fig. 1: Composition of Ultra-high-performance Concrete

Properties of UHPC

1. Strength

The compressive strength of ultra-high-performance concrete is ten times that of traditional concrete. The UHPC has a tensile strength of about 10 MPa.

2. Durability

While UHPC’s strength is impressive, its durability further exceeds expectations. UHPC has properties similar to hard rock.

3. Freeze/thaw Resistance 

The UHPC showed 100% of its material properties after 600 freeze/thaw cycles.

4. Chloride Permeability 

UHPC demonstrated considerably low chloride migration when tested, less than 10%, the permeability of conventional concrete.

5. Abrasion resistance 

UHPC has excellent abrasion resistance, nearly twice as resistant as ordinary concrete.

Materials and Mixture Proportions

The ultra-high-performance concrete produced from the following materials:
  1. Portland cement
  2. Silica Fume
  3. Limestone and or quartz flour
  4. Fine sand
  5. High-range water reducers
  6. Water
  7. Steel fibers
Table 1 presents two possible mix proportions to produce ultra-high-performance concrete: Table 1 Two Ultra-high-performance concrete mixture proportions by mass
UHPC component Mixture Proportion 1 Mixture Proportion 2
Cement 1 1
Silica fume 0.325 0.389
Sand 1.432 0.967
Quartz powder/silica flour 0.300 0.277
High-range water-reducing admixture 0.027 0.017
Water 0.280 0.208
Steel fibers 0.200 0.310
Fig. 2: Mix Proportion of Ultra-high-performance Concrete

Placement and Curing of UHPC

The pouring and curing procedure of UHPC is similar to those already established for use with some HPCs. The fluid mix is virtually self-placing and requires no internal vibration. If needed, external form vibration causes the mix to flow smoothly into place. Following an initial set of 24 hours, the curing process requires at least an additional 48 hours, including a vapor bath at a constant 88 °C. Hence, it is available for loading within three days as compared to almost 30 days in the case of conventional concrete.
Fig. 3: Longitudinal Connections are Cast between Deck-bulb-tee Girders on a Bridge

Applications of UHPC

  1. Highway bridges
  2. Field-cast closure pours for prefabricated bridge elements (Joint-Fills)
  3. Piles/foundations
  4. Security and blast mitigation applications
  5. Seismic retrofit
  6. Thin-bonded overlays on deteriorated bridge decks
  7. Pedestrian bridges
  8. Rehabilitation
  9. Spent nuclear fuel storage
  10. Facades
  11. Impact resistance
  12. Aggressive environments
  13. Canopies/shells
Fig. 4: UHPC used to Construct Bridge Structure

Advantages of UHPC

  1. Simplified construction techniques
  2. Speed of construction
  3. Improved durability
  4. Reduced maintenance
  5. Reduced out-of-service
  6. Minimum interruption
  7. Reduced element size and complexity
  8. Extended life span
  9. Improved resiliency
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