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Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Construction and Building Materials


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/conbuildmat

The mechanical strength and durability properties of ternary blended


cementitious composites containing granite quarry dust (GQD) as
natural sand replacement
Cheah Chee Ban, Lim Jay Sern ⇑, Mahyuddin B. Ramli
School of Housing, Building and Planning, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 USM, Malaysia

h i g h l i g h t s g r a p h i c a l a b s t r a c t

 The workability of the mortar


increases as the GQD replacement
level increases.
 Large volume GQD used as NRS show
similar mechanical performance.
 Large volume GQD used as NRS didn’t
show significant variance in
durability properties.
 Incorporation of GQD helps to
improve shrinkage performance.
 GQD can be partial or fully utilize in
the production of cementitious
composites.

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Cementitious composites are the most used man-made materials in the world with a global annual pro-
Received 9 July 2018 duction quantum of 25 billion tonnes worldwide, contributing approximately 5% to the global green-
Received in revised form 1 November 2018 house gas emissions. In the initiative to reduce the carbon footprint of cementitious composite
Accepted 23 November 2018
production, are growing interests in the large volume reuse of industrial by products such as ground
granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBS), pulverized fuel ash (PFA) and granite quarry dust (GQD) in cemen-
titious composites production. Such an approach offers a two-fold solution towards addressing the waste
Keywords:
management problem related to those industry by-products. At the same time however; reduction of car-
Large volume recycling
Mechanical properties
bon footprints of cementitious composite materials exists. However, in order to enable scalable applica-
Durability performance tions of such a recycling approach, a comprehensive body of knowledge on the mechanical strength and
High strength cementitious composites durability performance of the cementitious composite products containing a large volume of the mate-
rials needs to be established. Hence, it is the primary aim of the study to report a comprehensive assess-
ment on the mechanical strength and durability properties of high strength cementitious composites.
These materials are produced with a large volume of the aforementioned materials as the primary binder
and aggregate phase. Throughout the investigation, high strength cementitious composites mixes were
produced with a large volume of PFA and GGBS binder. Then phase coupled with ordinary Portland
cement (OPC). GQD was used as the fine aggregate phase in substitution of natural river sand at various
level of substitution ranging between 0 and 100% by volume. The cementitious composites were charac-
terized in terms of its fresh cementitious composites. Its flowability and hardened cementitious compos-
ites properties mainly bulk density, compressive strength, flexural strength, and Ultrasonic Pulse Velocity
were also assessed. In addition, the durability properties such as water absorptivity and porosity were
also covered in this experimental program. Pore continuity was assessed in terms of air permeability
and capillary absorption of the hardened specimens according to the testing age. This paper has also

⇑ Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: cheacheeban@usm.my (C.B. Cheah), jaysern07@student.usm.my (J.S. Lim), mahyudin@usm.my (M.B. Ramli).

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2018.11.194
0950-0618/Ó 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
292 C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306

covered the dimensional stability assessment in terms of drying shrinkage. Besides, a comprehensive
microstructural assessment was also performed to examine the microstructure morphology. From the
results, we found full incorporation of GQD as NRS without significant impairment to the mechanical,
durability and length change performance. Thus, the production of sustainable high strength cementi-
tious composites with large volume recycling of GQD is feasible which in turn reduces the depletion
on the natural river sand resources.
Ó 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction ites. GGBS is a by-product from the iron manufacturing industry.


Its chemical composition is approximately 30% to 40% of silicon
Global warming has become a seriously increasing issue. It was dioxide (SiO2) and 40% of calcium oxide (CaO). Incorporation of
believed carbon dioxide (CO2) gas was the main culprit that should GGBS was reported improved over the long-term durability perfor-
respond to the global warming phenomenon. Global warming was mance of the cementitious composite. In turn; this enhanced the
believed by authorities to be the cause of problems; such as rising cementitious composite’s service life while reducing the mainte-
of sea levels, crop failures, desertification and pest proliferation nance cost. Due to its availability in large quantities and as a waste
which have threatened human existence and its environment [1]. product from iron industry, it is economically used as a cement
Malaysia has rapidly transformed from an agricultural based to replacement material. There is little concern on the availability
an industrialized country in the past four decades. This phe- while generating a higher profit margin to the manufacturer
nomenon has led to the demand for a marked increase of automo- [16,17]. The PFA is a by-product from the combustion of pulverized
biles, factories and power plants [2]. At the same time, the coal in the coal-fired furnaces of thermal power plants [18]. Dis-
population in Malaysia has risen from 13.83 million in 1980 to posal as in a landfill of PFA has become an issue towards environ-
32.01 million in 2018 according to World Population Prospect mental concern [19]. However, the researchers have claimed that
[3]. Thus, the demand on the building areas and infrastructures due to its pozzolanic properties, it has been used as a supplemen-
has seemed to increase significantly. As a result, construction has tary cementitious material (SCM) in the cementitious composites
become one of the issues contributed to the CO2 emissions in the which have improved the PFA value into other valuable applica-
world [4] as well as in Malaysia. In the construction industry, those tions in order to reduce the environmental issue [19–21].
construction materials used in structural performance such as con- Furthermore, production and mining of natural aggregate have
crete and reinforcement steel were reported as the highest contri- also become a factor which cannot be ignored in the contribution
bution of the carbon emissions [5]. of CO2 emissions in cementitious composite production. CO2 emis-
Concrete is a compound basically made with the combination of sions from the production and mining of natural aggregate are
Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC), with natural aggregate with mostly from onsite vehicles which function to blast the aggregate
numerous nominal particle size of natural aggregate and water to smaller sizes. Loading and hauling including the electricity has
[6]. It is widely used on Earth with the consumption of 1 m3 per also contributed to the indirect emissions. Indirect emissions refer
person annually [7], with almost 5% of the total anthropogenic to the electricity used in crushing operations which account for up
CO2 emissions in the world [8]. Along with population growth, to 70% of emissions from aggregate production [22]. Production
the demand for concrete has seemed to increase and is forecasted and mining of natural aggregate have produced an amount of waste
to reach approximately 18 billion tons by the year 2050 [9]. Gener- volume which is unwanted and rejected by the industry [23] namely
ally, the carbon footprint in the concrete production is mainly con- granite quarry dust (GQD). GQD, so-called granite dust, also called
tributed by the usage of the binder and natural aggregates. OPC is manufactured sand is a waste from granite production [24] in a form
the main material used in concrete production. Production of OPC of fine particles which possess a size less than 4.75 mm [25]. Dis-
involves a high amount of embodied energy which has, in turn, posal of the waste has become an environmental issue. Land degra-
contributes 5% to 7% of CO2 emissions [10]. Calcination of lime- dation, visual effect, flooding of water and air pollution was believed
stone in the cement production was believed to be the main culprit to have a main negative impact caused by the disposal of the waste.
in the CO2 emission [11]. A temperature up to 1500 °C through Meanwhile, a particle size less than 75 mm randomly disposed was
combustion of fossil fuels in the production of clinker have con- known to lead to respiratory and allergy problems [24]. In addition,
tributed most of the CO2 emissions [12]. In order to reduce the uncontrolled and abusive behavior on mining the natural river sand
cement usage, researchers are currently working hard on finding (NRS) and aggregate have become a serious. This issue has also con-
the disposal and less valuable wastes from the industry which tributed to agricultural loss and rainforest destruction [15]. Accord-
potentially can be used as supplementary cementitious material ing to the authors [26], there were shortages of NRS for construction
(SCM). SCM is defined as a substantial quantity of waste materials due to over-exploitation. In a nutshell, incorporation of GQD as fine
which is produced globally from industrial, agricultural and wastes aggregates either fully or partially replace the NRS seems to be an
from rural and urban society according to the authors. [13]. Over- alternative for the resolution of issues raised by both the GQD and
all, materials such as metakaolin, silica fume, Pulverized Fly Ash NRS. According to the researchers, they have claimed that GQD is
(PFA), Ground Granulated Blast-furnace Slag (GGBS), Rice Husk the most suitable material to be used to replace the natural river
Ash (RHA) and high calcium wood ash which conforms with BS sand in cementitious composites production as compared to fly
EN 197-1 [14]. This is popularly used to reduce the carbon foot- ash, slag limestone, silica stone, furnace bottom ash and recycled
print of the concrete as the SCMs partially replace the cement con- fine aggregate [27–29]. As GQD is a by-product from crushing pro-
tent [15]. cess during quarrying activities, it was believed to enhance the con-
Today, GGBS and PFA are commonly used in the concrete indus- crete properties than the regular concrete materials [30]. Jannah
try in Malaysia due to their availability and benefits. Both materials et al. [31] also reported that utilization of GQD as NRS replacement
are commonly used to partially replace the cement in the concrete material would be beneficial in terms of the availability, cost, and
mixture. Either with one of the materials with cement is used to environmental impact.
form binary blended cementitious composites or both of the mate- In addition, there are some researchers interested in conducting
rials with cement to form ternary blended cementitious compos- research on the usage of GQD in various applications. Kang et al.
C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306 293

[32] have studied the feasibility of high volumes GQD in the pro- of mechanical strength performance. Researchers also reported
duction of lightweight foamed concrete. The authors reported that that the replacement levels more than 75% shows a reduction in
incorporation of GQD in the production of lightweight foamed con- mechanical strength performance. This is largely due to the
crete showed positive results in terms of mechanical strength per- increase in water demands which in turn reduce mechanical
formance. Besides, incorporation of GQD has also reduced the strength performance. Superior performance on the usage of GQD
environmental impact in terms of lower energy consumption and as a NRS replacement material was believed to be due to its angu-
a lesser amount of greenhouse gases emissions. Thomas and Hari- lar shape and rough texture. Such physical natures have improved
lal [33] have used the GQD in the production of artificial coarse the compactness and resistivity towards the crack propagation in
aggregates by using cold bonding techniques. GQD has been cold cementitious composite matrices [38,43,45]. Presence of fines from
bonded with different ratios of OPC and PFA to form an artificial GQD have improved the cementitious composite matrix filling up
coarse aggregate with a specific gravity range within 1.9 to 2.5. the voids in the cementitious mixture [39,41]. However, beyond
The result shows that the mechanical performance of the artificial the optimal replacement levels, the mechanical performance of
coarse aggregate is highly dependent on the cement content. Sha- the cementitious composite is reduced [45–48].
kir et al. [34] have investigated the use of GQD in brick production. Singh et al. [39] have reported the permeability and water
Incorporation of GQD has found an increase with the Ultrasonic absorption performance of cementitious composites with GQD
Pulse Velocity (UPV) results. The authors also concluded that incor- replacement levels up to 50% with 10% incremental. The results
poration of GQD in brick production is feasible and fit to the have shown that 30% of GQD replacement levels have exhibited
requirement of the relevant thresholds. Thus, it can be used as an the lowest permeability and water absorption. However, 50% of
alternative to conventional bricks in the building sector. Appukutty GQD replacement levels have shown increments in both perme-
[26] has used GQD to replace sand in cement mortar for brick ability and water absorption. Another study reported the incorpo-
masonry with different ratios of 1:8, 1:6, 1:5 and 1:4 to compare ration of GQD up to 55% which exhibited improvement in
with bricks with basic compressive strengths above 3.5 MPa and impermeability performance. The mix with 70% of GQD replace-
7.5 MPa. The researcher found that GQD can be used to replace ment levels exhibited poorer impermeability performance [41].
sand completely in masonry construction with higher strength Allam et al. [49] found that partial incorporation of 10% and
and cheaper cost. 17.5% GQD replacement levels helps to improve the water absorp-
Bishnoi and Bala [35] have studied the workability property of tion resistivity. The researchers claimed that the presence of GQD
GQD as NRS replacement material up to 35% at the same w/b ratio. tends to improve the grading of the fine aggregate phase while
The authors reported that incorporation of GQD tends to improve reducing the volume and numbers of capillary pores in the con-
the workability property of the concrete. Improvement of worka- crete matrix. Besides, improvement of durability properties of
bility property is related to the coarse grading of the GQD as GQD cementitious composite by improvement of the pore struc-
reported by Safiuddin and Raman [36]. However, Vijayalakshimi ture in the paste-aggregate interfacial zone (ITZ) has been reported
et al. [37] reported that incorporation of GQD tends to reduce the by Menadi et al. [50]. Kou and Poon [28] have investigated the dry-
workability performance. Some researchers have claimed that the ing shrinkage performance of concrete made with GQD as a NRS
presence of GQD tends to reduce the workability properties of replacement material from 0 to 100% with 25% increments. The
the fresh cementitious composites due to its excessive fines con- results have shown that the presence of GQD tends to reduce the
tent and high water absorption properties as compared to NRS drying shrinkage of the concrete. This is largely because GQD is rel-
[37–40]. Besides, the physical nature of the GQD (angular and atively coarser than NRS. Aggregates which are coarse in nature
rough in texture) has increases the internal friction between the tend to reduce the total specific surface areas, consequently,
particles, in turn, reduces the workability performance of the reduce water demand on that particular mix. Imamoto and Arai
cementitious composites [41]. [51] found that lower free water in the pore space helps to reduce
Raman et al. [42] have studied the mechanical strength perfor- the degree of drying shrinkage of the cementitious composites.
mance of cementitious composites with 20% and 40% GQD as NRS With the presence of lower free water in the cementitious matrix,
replacement material. The result shows that the incorporation of a lesser loss of free water to the surrounding exists resulting in bet-
GQD exhibited relative reduction in strength. Reduction of ter dimensional stability. However, Bonavetti and Iraser [52]
mechanical strength performance was believed to be due to the reported that presence of GQD tends to increase the length change
poor compaction due to reduction in workability. Improper com- of the cementitious composites. They have investigated the drying
paction increases the porosity in the microstructure of the cemen- shrinkage properties of the concrete with 0 to 25% of GQD replace-
titious composites [37]. Bishnoi and Bala [35] have investigated the ment levels. As the GQD replacement level increases, the length
mechanical performance of the GQD as NRS replacement material change also increases.
from 20% to 35% with an increment of 5%. The results have shown In the initiative to reduce the carbon footprint of cementitious
that partial incorporation of the GQD tends to improve the composites production, there is a growing interest in the large vol-
mechanical properties of the cementitious composites. Singh ume reuse of industrial by products such as ground granulated
et al. [39] have conducted a series of result with GQD replacement blast-furnace slag (GGBS) and pulverized fuel ash (PFA). These have
level up to 50% with 10% increments. 30% of GQD replacement been produced locally to partially replace the cement content up to
levels exhibited the optimum mechanical performance while a 50% with the ratio 4 to 1. In order to produce a more sustainable
reduction in strength was observed at a 50% of GQD replacement high strength cementitious composite, there is also growing atten-
level. Few researchers have conducted a series of results with 0– tion to finding alternative materials to be used as NRS in structural
100% GQD as a NRS replacement level. Joel [43] reported that a par- mortar. Gibson [30] claimed that GQD is the waste produced from
tial GQD replacement level up to 20% shows positive results in natural granite. It is suitable to be used in substitution to sand in
terms of mechanical strength performance. Suman and Srivastava the production of structural mortar. It was also believed that incor-
[44] reported that incorporation of GQD up to 50% exhibited a poration of the GQD in the production of cementitious composites
superior mechanical strength performance compared to the con- was theoretically stronger and more durable than the NRS. The pri-
ventional concrete. Replacement levels up to 60% did not signifi- mary aim of the study is to report a comprehensive assessment on
cantly show a reduction in mechanical strength performance. A the mechanical strength, durability properties, dimensional stabil-
similar finding reported by Kou and Poon [28] also found that ity and the microstructure morphology of high strength cementi-
GQD replacement levels up to 50% exhibited improvement in terms tious composites. The material is produced with a large volume
294 C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306

of the aforementioned materials as the primary binder and aggre- fraction of fines content as compared to the natural river sand. The fineness modu-
lus of the GQD was determined as 2.76 while the specific gravity of the material is
gate phase. At the same time, the physical properties and mineral-
2.75 (Table 1).
ogy of both GQD and NRS will be also reported. Throughout the
investigation, high strength cementitious composites mixes were
2.1.5. Natural river sand (NRS)
produced with a large volume of PFA and GGBS binder phase cou-
Quartzitic natural river sand in an uncrushed form with a specific gravity of 2.63
pled with ordinary Portland cement (OPC) with the fix ratio as and 2.57 fineness modulus was used in this experimental program. From Fig. 3, the
aforementioned. GQD was used as the fine aggregate phase in sub- physical appearance of the natural river sand was relatively less angular and
stitution of NRS at various levels of the substitution ranging rounded in shape as compared to the GQD. NRS used in the study to washed and
between 0 and 100% with the increment of 20% by volume. remove any organic impurities. The samples were then sieved through 5 mm sieve
while retaining on the 75 mm test sieve and dried to the saturated surface dry con-
ditions. The XRD result obtained is showed in Fig. 4. The physical properties of the
2. Materials and methods GQD and NRS have been presented in detail as shown in Table 1.

2.1. Materials
2.1.6. Superplasticizer and mixing water
2.1.1. Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) Two types of Polycarboxylate Ether (PCE) superplasticizers were used in this
BS EN 197-1 type I Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) with specific gravity 3.15 experimental programme in order to maintain the mortar mix with low water/bin-
was used in this experimental programme. Both the physical and chemical proper- der content while fulfilling the targeted level of workability. Both superplasticizers
ties of cement used were in compliance with the specifications in BS EN 197-1 [14]. were in the aqueous form with the commercial code of WP 30 and Master Glenium
8788 supplied by Macro Dimension Concrete (MDC) Pte. Ltd. and BASF Malaysia.
WP 30 is classified as Type F admixture with high range water reducing property
2.1.2. Pulverized fuel ash (PFA)
while Master Glenium 8788 is classified as Type G admixture with high range water
Pulverized fuel ash (PFA) used in the study was collected from the precipitator
reduction and retarding property as prescribed in ASTM C 494 [59]. Tap water sup-
unit of a local coal-fuelled power plant. Results obtained from the Blaine fineness
plied from a local potable water network complied to the requirement prescribed in
analysis indicated that PFA used in the study had a specific surface area of
the BS 3148 [60] was used.
3244 cm2/g. The specific gravity of the PFA was determined to be 2.8. Similarly,
the details on the physical and chemical properties of the PFA has been character-
ized and deliberated extensively in the authors’ prior work [53]. 2.2. Methods

2.1.3. Ground granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBS) 2.2.1. Mixture proportioning


Ground granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBS) used in this experimental pro- The binder to fine aggregate ratio was maintained constantly at 1 to 3 according
gramme was supplied from Macro Dimension Concrete (MDC) Sdn. Bhd. GGBS to the standard proportion prescribed in BS EN 196-1 [61]. The design was in accor-
has been categorized according to the standard procedure prescribed in BS EN dance to the absolute volumetric method standard prescribed in ACI 211.1 [62]. The
196-2 [54] and complies to the specification in MS EN 15167-1 [55]. The specific volume of the paste and fine aggregate was fixed accordingly to avoid shortage of
gravity of the GGBS was reported as 2.93 with a specific surface area of the materials during casting. The weight has been fine-tuned according to the speci-
4650 cm2/g. fic gravity obtained and the replacement level of the GQD, particularly as shown
specifically in Table 2. A series of mortars were fabricated from the combination
2.1.4. Granite quarry dust (GQD) of Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC), Ground Granulated Blast-furnace Slag (GGBS)
The GQD used in this experimental program was supplied by from a local and Pulverised Fly Ash (PFA) with a constant ratio in 5: 4: 1. As for the aggregate
quarry in Kedah, Malaysia. The micrograph in Fig. 1 shows the physical appearance phase, NRS was partially substituted by the quarry dust at various sand replace-
of GQD. A qualitative examination of the micrograph shows that the particles of ment levels of 0%, 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, and 100%. A total of 6 mortar mix designs
GQD are granular, irregular and angular in geometry. The X-ray Diffraction (XRD) were fabricated together with the control mortar mix in order to study the interac-
image of GQD was presented in Fig. 2. By comparing two XRD images between tion between a ternary blended mortar with different ratio of NRS and GQD. The
GQD and NRS in Figs. 2 and 4, GQD possesses a similar mineralogy composition polycarboxylate-ether (PCE) type of superplasticizer with the commercial code
as NRS is majorly quartz. Such similarity in mineralogy composition indicated that WP 30 and Master Glenium 8788 were used in this experimental program. A total
GQD is feasible to be used as a NRS replacement material in the cementitious com- of 1.2% superplasticizer dosage was used comprising of the combination of 0.6% WP
posites production. GQD used in the study was washed and sieved through a 5 mm 30 and 0.6% Master Glenium 8788 was added to achieve the desired workability.
sieve while retaining on the 75 mm test sieve in accordance to the standard pre- The water/binder (w/b) ratio was the initiated design at 0.30 with the further addi-
scribed in BS 882 [56]. The GQD samples have been dried to the saturated surface tion of water until achieving 150 mm ± 5 mm flow diameter by using the flow table
dry conditions before used. The particle size distribution analysis was conducted method. The flow table method used was complied with the specification in ASTM C
accordance to the standard prescribed in BS 812-103.1 [57]. From the particle size 230 [63]. This is to produce a mortar mix which can be properly compacted within
distribution graph shown in Fig. 5, the GQD exhibited a similar particle size distri- the steel mold. The mix proportion of mortar is summarized as in Table 2. CM indi-
bution grading as natural river sand. However, from the particle size distribution cates the mix with only OPC used as the only hydraulic binder and NRS as the only
graph, it is noticeable that GQD has a relatively higher fraction of coarse and higher fine aggregate in the mortar mix. GQD0, GQD20, GQD40, GQD60, GQD80, and
GQD100 indicated the mix with ternary blended mortar while seen different in
the GQD replacement level at 0%, 20%, 40%, 60%, 80% and 100%.

2.2.2. Mixing, forming and curing


Each batch of mortar was fabricated by using an epicyclic type mechanical
mixer which complies to the standard prescribed in ASTM C 305 [64]. The mortar
was mixed homogeneously according to the sequence as follows. First, the binder
and the fine aggregate were weighed and prepared according to the mix design vol-
ume and placed in the mixing bowl in 3 equal parts. In order to achieve a homoge-
nous mix, the binder and fine aggregate were mixed for 10 min at low mixing speed
in dry condition. Next, 80% of mixing water according to the mix design was then
added to the mix at the high mixing speed for 2 min. The superplasticizers were
then added into the wet mix separately and mixed for 1 min each followed by
the subsequent water and mixed for 2 min at a high mixing speed. The workability
of the fresh mortar was then examined by using a flow table which complied to the
specification prescribed in ASTM C 230 [63] in order to achieve 150 mm ± 5 mm of
flow diameter. The addition of water was required if the flow diameter failed to
comply at 150 mm ± 5 mm. The mortar used in the flow table test was remixed
with the additional water for 2 min until the flow diameter achieved
150 mm ± 5 mm. The final water to binder ratio was then calculated and recorded
as shown in Table 2. The mortar was then transferred to the steel mold with a speci-
fic dimension according to the test. The mortar was placed in the mold in 3 equal
layers with each layer compacted for 10 s. All the specimens were then cured in
Fig. 1. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of the GQD at 150 times the mold for 24 h. Upon being demoulded, the test specimens were sealed with
magnification. polyethylene to prevent moisture loss until the date of the test.
C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306 295

Fig. 2. X-ray Diffraction (XRD) image of the GQD.

Table 1
Physical properties of the GQD and NRS. 2.2.4. Bulk density of hardened cementitious composites
The bulk density of the hardened mortar was examined through the water dis-
Property Standard references Natural river Granite Quarry
placement method according to the standard prescribed in BS EN 12390-7 [66]
sand (NRS) Dust (GQD)
which is suitable for the test sample in all shapes. 3 prisms with the dimension
Specific gravity BS 812-2 [58] 2.63 2.75 of 40 mm  40 mm  160 mm were fabricated for every mix design and each test-
Water absorption (%) BS 812-2 [58] 1.61 2.22 ing age. The bulk density of the hardened cementitious composites was tested at
Fineness modulus BS 812-103.1 [57] 2.57 2.76 24 h, 7, 28 and 90 days during the curing age. The average bulk density obtained
was rounded to the nearest whole number and reported.

2.2.5. Compressive and flexural strength


The compressive strength of the mortar in this experimental program was
examined by using a broken prism method as prescribed in ASTM C 349 [67].
The broken prism after subjected to flexural load was then compressed by using
Universal Testing Machine (UTM) and the maximum load was obtained. The com-
pressive strength of the mortar was taken as the average of the 6 tested broken
prism parts. The flexural strength performance of the mortar was examined by
using three-point loading method as per procedures prescribed in ASTM C 348
[68]. A total of 3 samples with the edge dimension of 40 mm  40 mm  160 mm
prisms were fabricated for every mix design and testing age. Both the compressive
and flexural strength of the mortar mix was examined on 24 h, 7, 28 and 90 days
of the curing age in this experimental program. An average of three tested
specimens was taken as the representative mechanical strength result. The
maximum permissible compressive and flexural strength variation within the
same batch of the tested specimen was set at 10% as per the standard specifica-
tion stated earlier.

2.2.6. Ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV) assessment


An ultrasonic pulse velocity was examined by measuring the propagation veloc-
ity of a transmitted longitudinal ultrasonic pulse across the cross-sectional area.
Mortar prisms were measured at the dimensions of 100 mm  100 mm  500 mm.
Fig. 3. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of NRS at 150 times The transmission of the ultrasonic pulse was examined by using an electro-
magnification. acoustical transducer which held in contact with one surface of the concrete under
test. The pulse of vibrations was then converted into an electrical signal by a second
transducer after the pulse traversing a known path length in the specimen. The
2.2.3. Fresh property assessment transmitted time and velocity was then displayed on the electro-transducer. The
The fresh property of the mortar was assessed by using flow table method standard procedures were conducted according to the standard prescribed in BS
which complied to the specification stated in ASTM C 230 [63] and performed EN 12504-4 [69]. A mortar prism with the dimensions of
according to the procedure prescribed in ASTM C 109 [65]. The targeted workability 100 mm  100 mm  500 mm was fabricated for all mix designs and examined at
was fixed at 150 ± 5 mm flow diameter. This is to ensure adequate placement of 24 h, 7, 28 and 90 days during the curing stage. 3 readings were taken and the aver-
fresh mortar into the steel mold. age velocity representative of the UPV result was taken.
296 C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306

Fig. 4. X-ray Diffraction (XRD) image of NRS.

time of the gas flow over a constant flow distance within a 3 mm diameter flow
meter was obtained. The K value represented the intrinsic air permeability on that
particular sample and calculated by using the formula proposed by Cheah and
Ramli [72]. The intrinsic air permeability of the mortar was taken as the average
three tested representative samples and expressed to the nearest 0.1 m2.

2.2.9. Total porosity


The total porosity of the mortar was examined by using the method prescribed
in RILEM [73]. It was a method to examine the porosity of the specimens by using
the immersion method into a vacuum desiccator. 3 mortar specimens with the
dimensions of 45 mm in diameter and a 50 mm height were fabricated for each
testing age. The porosity of the mortar mix was examined right after demould at
7, 28 and 90 days. On the particular testing age, the test samples were dried in
the oven to remove moisture for 72 h. The test samples were then cooled to the
room temperature after being removed from the oven and weight by using the
weighing machine. Subsequently, the test samples were fully submerged in the vac-
uum chamber for 48 h. The mass in the water and the mass in the air were then
measured after the test samples were removed from the vacuum chamber. The
Fig. 5. Particle distribution of the GQD and NRS. average value obtained represents the total porosity of the mortar mix and
expressed to the nearest 0.01% by using the standard equation for total porosity sta-
ted in RILEM [73].
2.2.7. Water absorption
The water absorption of the mortar was performed according to the procedures
2.2.10. Capillary action assessment
prescribed in BS 1881-122 [70]. 3 Mortar specimens with the dimensions of a
A method proposed by Benachour [74] was used to examine the total porosity
75 mm diameter and a 100 mm height were fabricated for each testing age by using
in the mortar specimen. A total of 3 samples for each mix design with the dimen-
the steel mold. The water absorption of the mortar specimens was examined on the
sion of 40 mm  40 mm and 160 mm were fabricated and cured for 7 days. The
testing age at 24 h, 7, 28 and 90 days. The average percentage calculated repre-
samples were heated in the oven at the temperature of 105 ± 5 °C until no further
sented the water absorption value and was expressed to the nearest 0.01% by using
weight change was recorded. The samples were then cooled to the room tempera-
the standard equation stated in BS 1881-122 [70].
ture and the longitudinal surface of the specimen was wrapped by using a cello-
phane tape and the weight of each specimen was measured. The samples were
then placed on the moist sand bed with a thickness of 2 cm. The weight of the spec-
2.2.8. Intrinsic permeability
imens was taken every hour on the first day, every day during the first week and
Intrinsic permeability is a method used to indicate the ease of the flow of liq-
every week until the third week. The average result of three tested samples was
uids, gases or dissolved deleterious substances such as chloride or sulfate ions or
expressed in a capillary absorption coefficient (g/cm2).
carbon dioxide through the mortar specimens. The intrinsic permeability of the
mortar in this experimental program was examined by using the Leeds Cell Per-
meameter which is recommended by Cabrera and Lynsdale [71] by using carbon 2.2.11. Drying shrinkage
dioxide gas. A similar test was conducted by Cheah and Ramli [72] by subjecting The dimensional stability of the mortar was examined by following the stan-
the samples under nitrogen gas. Test specimens consisted of three numbers of mor- dard procedure prescribed in ASTM C 157 [75]. Two mortar prisms with the dimen-
tar cylinders with diameters of 45 mm and 50 mm in height. The test samples were sions of 75 mm  75 mm  285 mm were fabricated as tested on the testing age at
dried in an oven for 72 h under the temperature of 105 ± 5 °C to remove moisture. 1, 7, 14, 28, 56, 90 and 112 days. A standard reference rod with the length of
Upon installation, the flow rate of gas through the specimens was determined. The 298.5 mm was used to calibrate the drying shrinkage instrument to 0.000 mm.
C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306 297

Table 2
Mixture proportions (kg/m3) of different mortar mixes.

Mix Designation OPC (kg/m3) GGBS (kg/m3) PFA (kg/m3) NRS (kg/m3) GQD (kg/m3) SP Dosage (%) Water (kg/m3) w/b
CM 545 0 0 1602 0 1.20 202 0.37
GQD0 274 218 55 1644 0 1.20 180 0.33
GQD20 274 218 55 1328 334 1.20 174 0.32
GQD40 274 218 55 996 669 1.20 174 0.32
GQD60 274 218 55 664 1003 1.20 174 0.32
GQD80 274 218 55 332 1338 1.20 174 0.32
GQD100 274 218 55 0 1685 1.20 169 0.31

The mortar specimen was then placed into the shrinkage instrument and the read- workability of the mortar mixture due to the high specific surface
ing is taken until the value remained constant. The average result from two test
area of the GQD. The higher specific surface area tends to increase
prisms was obtained and used to represent the length change (%).
the water demand in the cementitious composites [37]. There are
51.16% of NRS and 50.32% of the GQD have which have passed
2.2.12. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis
Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis was conducted in order to study through the 1.18 mm test sieve. Based on the results, it was indi-
the microstructure morphology of the mortar mix. Selected samples were cut into cated that the NRS used possessed a higher fines fraction that is
the cross-sectional dimension of 10 mm  10 mm with 10 mm depth and coated by smaller than 1.18 mm. At the same time, there were 48.84% of
a layer of gold. The image was taken by using a FEI Quanta FEG 650 scanning elec- NRS and 49.68% of the GQD retained on the 1.18 mm test sieve.
tron microscope.
These results have indicated that the GQD possessed a higher frac-
tion of coarser particles and lesser finer particles than NRS. This
3. Results and discussion was believed to have reduced the specific surface area of the fine
aggregates in cementitious composites. As the specific surface area
3.1. Workability of the mortar is reduced, the water demand required to achieve the desired
workability tended to be reduced.
Based on Fig. 6, the water required to achieve a 150 ± 5 mm
diameter flow decrease in the presence of the GGBS and PFA. This
would be evident of the presence of SCMs improved workability of 3.2. Bulk density
the mortar mixture. The inclusion of SCMs in the mortar tends to
reduce the water demand up to 11%. The observation is in close Table 3 shows the bulk density of the mortar mix with different
agreement to the claim that the particles size of GGBS and PFA GQD sand replacement levels. Overall, the bulk density of the mortar
are generally smaller than PC which has filled up the gaps and was reported in the range of 2303 kg/m3 to 2388 kg/m3under nor-
pores in the cementitious matrix which in turn enhanced the mal weight mortar category. The bulk density of the mortar mix
workability of the cementitious mixture [76]. As the GQD contents was increasing from 1 to 90 days. The increase in bulk density was
increased in the ternary blended mortar, the water demand of the due to the continuous hydrations within the specimens which have
mortar mixture to achieve the desired workability tends to promoted a denser microstructure of the specimens on prolonged
decrease. This phenomenon was attributed to the grading of the curing durations [77]. The bulk density of ternary blended cementi-
GQD and natural river sand [36]. Based on the particle size distri- tious composites at the early age (1 day and 7 days) which consisted
bution shown in Table 2, the GQD possessed a higher fraction of of 40% of GGBS and 10% of the PFA was relatively lower than the con-
the coarser particles than the NRS. Nevertheless, the fineness mod- trol mix which was the full OPC blend mortar. The replacement of
ulus of the GQD was reported as 2.76 which are higher than the cement content has reduced the volume of the formation of hydrates
fineness modulus of 2.57 for the NRS. The higher the value of the in the matrix of the cementitious composite which was used to fill
fineness modulus indicates a coarser overall grading of the GQD up the pores in the matrix of the cementitious composite. This
as compared to NRS. Besides, the particle size distribution graph resulted in a reduction of the density of the mortar at the early age
showed that the GQD sample possesses a higher fraction of coarse [78]. However, further curing up to 28 days and above showed that
particles that have passed through the 1.18, 2.36 and 5 mm testing the bulk density of the ternary blended mortar possessed relatively
sieves. The fine particles in the GQD were believed to reduce the higher result than the control mix. This was believed to be due to the
presence of a pozzolanic reaction which promotes a denser cemen-
titious matrix at the later age of the test mortars. The presence of the
PFA and GGBS have reduced the water demand which has, in turn,
produced a denser microstructure matrix results in relatively higher
bulk density [79]. Table 3 shows that as the GQD replacement level
increases, the bulk density of the ternary blended mortar increases.
This is largely due to the presence of denser material use in the
cementitious composites [80]. The specific gravity of the GQD used
in this experimental program was reported as 2.75 while 2.63 for
NRS as shown in Table 1. The researchers have reported that the den-
sity of the mortar varies with the denser materials used which pro-
duced a denser matrix of the mix [81]. As the GQD replacement level
increases, the density of the cementitious composites increases as
the volume of denser GQD increases. Furthermore, the fines from
the GQD have are believed to have filled up the pores inside the
matrix which have produced a denser and a more compact cemen-
Fig. 6. Workability of mortar mix. titious matrix. This results in a higher density of the mortar [82].
298 C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306

Table 3
Bulk density of the mortar mix.

Mix design Hybridization ratio (%) GQD replacement Bulk density (kg/m3) - standard deviation
level (%)
OPC GGBS PFA NRS GQD 1 day 7 days 28 days 90 days
CM 100 0 0 100 0 2303 ± 4.92 2318 ± 2.62 2323 ± 0.72 2324 ± 0.16
GQD0 50 40 10 100 0 2301 ± 4.32 2303 ± 3.74 2327 ± 1.73 2330 ± 4.43
GQD20 50 40 10 80 20 2342 ± 4.50 2342 ± 3.46 2343 ± 2.31 2343 ± 4.03
GQD40 50 40 10 40 60 2347 ± 0.23 2347 ± 3.68 2349 ± 4.08 2361 ± 1.25
GQD60 50 40 10 60 40 2356 ± 2.00 2356 ± 5.31 2363 ± 5.23 2366 ± 3.09
GQD80 50 40 10 20 80 2362 ± 4.16 2362 ± 0.47 2368 ± 3.54 2371 ± 4.92
GQD100 50 40 10 0 100 2370 ± 5.23 2370 ± 3.68 2382 ± 2.49 2388 ± 4.91

3.3. Compressive and flexural strength

Figs. 7 and 8 shows the compressive and flexural strength per-


formance of the control mix and the ternary blended mortar with
various GQD replacement levels. Based on the compressive and
flexural strength performance shown in Figs. 7 and 8, the control
mix possessed higher compressive and flexural strength at the
early ages (1 day and 7 days). This was largely due to the presence
of GGBS and PFA in the ternary blended mortar. The presence of
SCMs such as GGBS and PFA have been reported to exhibit a lower
mechanical strength performance at the early age in the past find-
ings [76,77,83]. The strength at day 1 shows the GGBS-PFA ternary
blended mortar (GQD0) has exhibited a normalized compressive
strength of 44% of the control mix (CM) and a compressive strength
of 77% at 7 days. This was because the pozzolanic reaction between Fig. 8. Flexural strength performance of the mortar mix.
the PFA and the lime generated by the OPC hydration is relatively
slower. There was also lower hydraulic reactivity of GGBS as com-
pared to the primary hydration of OPC [84]. Hence, the dilution of as compared to the mortar mix with NRS only. As the GQD replace-
OPC content for GQD0 and all mixes containing GQD affected the ment level increases up to 60%, the mortar mix possessed a more
early compressive strength performance as the OPC volume has remarkable increment in the mechanical performance. However,
been substituted by GGBS and PFA by 50%. Thus, the results beyond 60% of GQD replacement levels, the presence of GQD does
showed that the ternary blended mortar with different GQD not further improve the mechanical performance of the ternary
replacement levels possessed relatively a lower early strength than blended mortar. Improvement in mechanical performance is lar-
the control mix (CM). From 28 days onwards, the ternary blended gely due to the better bond strength between the binder and
mortar with different GQD replacement levels possessed a higher GQD particles [39]. GQD is a material which is relatively rough in
compressive strength than the control mix (CM). This phenomenon texture and angular in shape as observed in Fig. 1 as compare to
was attributed to the presence of GGBS and PFA. GGBS and PFA NRS which is more rounded in shape as shown in Fig. 2. The rough
tend to promote later age strength of the cementitious composites texture of the GQD has induced a better frictional resistance
which have been reported by the previous findings. The presence between the paste and the fine aggregates [38,41,43]. Results
of GGBS and PFA has enhanced the later age strength by producing showed an improvement in mechanical strength performance with
the secondary C-S-H and C-A-S-H hydrates. Hence, they have filled the inclusion of the GQD as a sand replacement material. An angu-
up the pores in the primary C-S-H network formed by the primary lar shape of the GQD revealed an enhancement of resistivity
hydration of cement results in a denser cementitious matrix towards the crack propagation through the interlocking of particles
[77,78,84]. At the early ages (1 day and 7 days), the presence of in the cementitious composites [45,47,85]. Nevertheless, a more
the GQD tends to improve the compressive strength performance compact matrix was produced with the aid of the GQD resulting
in mechanical strength improvement [39,43]. At the same time,
the presence of the GQD has further reduced the water demand
which results in relatively a lower w/b ratio compared to the tern-
ary blended mortar mix with only NRS. Generally, the w/b ratio
reflects the strength performance of the cementitious composites.
The strength performance is inversely proportional to the w/b
ratio. The reduction in water consumption has narrowed the ITZ
which consequently increased the bond strength between the
cement paste and aggregate [86]. As from the results, the increase
in the GQD replacement level up to 60% showed an improvement
in both compressive and flexural strength performance. Beyond a
60% replacement level, the inclusion of the GQD does not improve
the mechanical strength performance further. In both compressive
and flexural strength performance, GQD80 possessed a similar
performance as GQD 20 which is similar as GQD0. Nevertheless,
there is a slightly decrement in both mechanical strength perfor-
mances in GQD100. As compare to GQD0, GQD100 has shown a
Fig. 7. Compressive strength performance of the mortar mix. 4.2% and 3.4% lower compressive strength as well as a 4.4% and
C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306 299

1.0% lower flexural strength at 28 days and 90 days of curing. As of the C-A-S-H framework from GGBS-PFA hybrid [77]. At 90 days,
such, it can be concluded that full utilization of the GQD does the ternary blended mortar with various GQD replacement levels
not show a remarkable decrement in mechanical strength perfor- showed better UPV performance as compared to the control mix.
mance which can be fully utilized in cementitious composite pro- These results were attributed to the combined enhancement
duction with SCMs. The decrement in mechanical strength effects of both SCMs and the GQD. The presence of SCMs such as
performance in GQD100 was established due to the presence of GGBS and PFA improved the microstructure of the cementitious
an excessive content of fines which are the fractions that pass composites. This was done through the continuous pozzolanic
through the 75 mm test sieve [56] from the GQD. Excessive fines reaction at a later age. The presence of the GQD had also densified
have induced a higher specific surface area which required more the overall aggregate phase. Theoretically, a lower w/b ratio and a
binder to bind the aggregate phase [41,82]. Insufficient paste con- denser material used in the production of cementitious composites
tent due to the high total surface area of the aggregate phase tends tends to improve the UPV performance due to a more compact and
to produce a poor interlocking between the aggregate and binder denser microstructure [80]. The w/b ratio was reported to reduce
with an adverse effect on mechanical strength [37]. In addition, as the GQD replacement level increases in Fig. 6. However, results
Singh et al. [39] has claimed that the GQD tends to incur resistivity obtained showed that a reduction of w/b by GQD does not further
to the flow due to its natural physical properties as discussed improve the UPV performance as there is further reduction in w/b
before. Although lesser water demand was required in GQD100, ratio. This can be observed in the GQD80 and GQD100 mix which
however, due to its higher water absorption properties, the free possessed relatively lower UPV results at the later age (90 days).
water in the cementitious matrix was absorbed by the GQD. This Although incorporation of the GQD has further reduced the water
resulted in a poor degree of compaction. Such a phenomenon has demand, the reduction in water does not show continuous
led to a higher void and poorer microstructure matrix resulting improvement of UPV results along with increasing the GQD
in lower compressive and flexural strength performance. replacement levels. This was largely due to the higher fraction of
fine content which has increased the total specific surface area of
the aggregate phase. As such, the paste volume demand was
3.4. Ultrasonic pulse velocity of propagation expected to be higher. As the binder content was kept constant,
the reduction in water consumption was believed to consequently
Ultrasonic pulse velocity of propagation is a type of non- reduce the paste volume in GQD80 and GQD100 resulting in a rel-
destructive assessment to indicate the density of compactness of atively poor interlocking microstructure. Therefore, a porous
the cementitious composites. This gives an indication of the veloc- matrix was formed. Overall, the presence of the GQD showed a rel-
ity of a pulse using ultrasonic longitudinal waves transmitted atively higher UPV result as compared to the control mix and
across the length of the cementitious composites. The ultrasonic GQD0. Singh et al. [40] claimed that the presence of GQD tends
pulse velocity of propagation of a mortar mix with different GQD to densify the matrix of the cementitious composites. Meanwhile,
replacement levels is shown in Fig. 9. Based on Fig. 9, the results an increase in the adhesion of concrete specimens with positively
showed a similar trend in compressive and flexural strength per- higher UPV results was obtained. Nevertheless, fully utilization of
formance as previously discussed. Ternary blended mortar showed the GQD exhibited similar UPV values. GQD0, however, exhibited
relatively lower UPV values as compared to the control mix at the better performance in the UPV values than the control mix at
early ages (1 day and 7 days). This was largely due to the hydration 90 days of curing age. Such a phenomenon can be explained. Full
in cement as the early age produced a more compact microstruc- utilization of the GQD with a ternary blended binder possesses a
ture as compared to the ternary blended mortar. Based on the similar performance as ternary blended mortar with full NRS as
7 day results, the use of the high volume of GQD tends to produce aggregate with an improved cementitious composite microstruc-
a denser overall aggregate phase which has had results in the ture at a prolonged curing age.
enhancement of the UPV results. The GQD within 60%, 80%, and
100% replacement levels showed a better performance as com- 3.5. Water absorption
pared to the mix with 0%, 20% and 40% GQD replacement levels.
The presence of the GQD tends to compensate the negative impact Fig. 10 showed the water absorption of the mortar mix with dif-
by GGBS and PFA at the early ages (1 day and 7 days). At the age of ferent GQD replacement levels. Overall, the mix with GGBS and
28 days, the UPV results with the presence of SCMs showed better PFA possessed relatively high water absorption as compared to
performance than the control mix. The high content of GGBS and the control mix at the testing age of 1 day and 7 days. GGBS and
PFA hybrids was claimed to enhance the medium term mechanical were claimed to enhance the mechanical and durability perfor-
performance due to the rigorous continuous time-based formation mance at the later age according to previous literature. However,
the presence of GGBS and PFA as SCMs has shown a negative
impact towards the early age (1 day and 7 days) performance in
terms of water absorption results. Amer et al. [87] reported that
this phenomenon was due to the hydration of cement produced
the hydrates framework which acts as a basic skeleton of percolat-
ing solids to the microstructure in the early curing age. The substi-
tution up to 50% of OPC with the combination of GGBS and PFA
have reduced the total cement content contributing to a higher
water absorption at early ages of 1 day and 7 days. It was also
observed that the incorporation of the GQD tends to compensate
the cement dilution effect at the early ages as found in the mechan-
ical performance section. Densification in the cementitious matrix
by the GQD slightly improved in its water absorption properties of
the ternary blended mortar [41]. Densification in the cementitious
matrix is supported by the bulk density result as aforementioned
in Table 3. As reported previously, fully utilization of the GQD in
Fig. 9. Ultrasonic pulse velocity of propagation of the mortar mix. ternary mortar did not further improve the water absorption
300 C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306

Fig. 10. Water absorption of the mortar mix.


Fig. 11. Intrinsic air permeability of the mortar mix.

properties at an early age (1 day and 7 days). The excessive fines as mentioned previously. From the results shown in Table 3, the
from the GQD tended to increase the total specific surface area presence of the GQD tends to increase the bulk density on that par-
which resulted in a higher paste demand. The deficiency in paste ticular mix design also at an early age (1 day and 7 days). A denser
volume has resulted in poor interlocking between aggregate and material which is the GQD used in the production of cementitious
paste. At 28 days onwards, the ternary blended mortar started to composites tends to produce a denser microstructure resulting in
exhibit significant resistivity towards the water absorption. The an improvement on the resistivity of air permeability. GQD20,
ternary blended mortar with the GQD replacement levels of 0%, GQD40, and GQD60 have shown relatively lower k-values than
20%, 40%, and 60% were reported to exhibit better resistivity GQD0 on the first day of its curing age. Partially GQD replacement
towards the water absorption as compared to the control mix. Fur- up to 60% has reduced the k-value range from 7.4% to 24.9% as
thermore, the presence of the GQD has reduced the number of compared to GQD0 on the first day of testing. Presence of the
voids and capillaries within the cementitious matrix [40]. The phe- GQD up to 60% tends to improve permeability resistivity at an early
nomenon was also believed to be attributed to the improvement of age. Overall, the k-value decreases as the GQD increases up to 80%
pore structure in the paste-aggregate ITZ [50]. Allam et al. [49] from 28 days onwards. Partial replacement of the GQD tends to
reported that the presence of the GQD tends to enhance the mix- improve the microstructure of the cementitious composites pre-
ture grading. Such enhancement has resulted in producing a more sent a more adequate grading, subsequently, reduce volume and
compacted mixture which permits water to enter the specimen. connectivity of the capillary pores. From Fig. 11, the k-values of
The result also showed that large volume of the GQD replacement GQD80 and GQD100 were observed relatively higher than the
levels up to 80% and 100% permitted relatively higher water GQD0 mix at all ages. Singh et al. [39] reported that beyond opti-
absorption as compared to the mix coded GQD0. However, it was mal replacement levels, there was a remarkable reduction in per-
also observed that there was not much significant difference meability resistivity performance. The fines from the GQD have
between the control mix with GQD80 and GQD100. increased the total specific surface area, which in turn, increased
the paste demand with a consequential effect as discussed in prior
3.6. Intrinsic air permeability sections. However, with GQD80 it was found that there is an
improvement in air permeability resistivity when compared with
The results of the intrinsic air permeability of the mortar mix the control mix. From the bulk density result recorded in Table 3,
with different GQD replacement levels have been shown in GQD80 possessed a relatively higher density. Such phenomenon
Fig. 11. Intrinsic air permeability is a method to investigate the explained a denser microstructure possessed a more refined
ease of liquids, gases and dissolved deleterious substances such microstructure; thus reducing the intrinsic air permeability value
as chloride or sulfate ions or carbon dioxide ability to penetrate at 28 days onwards. Such a phenomenon does not apply to the sit-
through the mortar/concrete mix [71]. Similar to the mechanical uation in the mix coded GQD100. GQD100 possessed relatively
strength and water absorption performance, ternary blended mor- higher intrinsic air permeability value than the control mix at all
tar exhibited a relatively higher k-value at the 1 day testing age ages. The differential recorded data was reported at 143.3%,
which is similar to the findings from Owaid et al. [78]. The authors 55.7%, 9.6% and 2.0% at the specific testing age. The differential
claimed that the presence of continuous pores was largely due to was found decreased at the prolonged curing age. At the prolonged
low GGBS reactivity and the slow pozzolanic reaction of the PFA curing age, the impairment in full utilization of the GQD tended to
at the early age (1 day and 7 days). From Fig. 9, the k-value of decrease.
the ternary blended mortar with different GQD replacement levels
from 0% to 100% were reported 153% to 253% higher than the con- 3.7. Total porosity
trol mix at the first day of testing. However, the k-value of the tern-
ary blended mortar showed a remarkable reduction from 1 day to Fig. 12 showed the results of the total porosity of the mortar
7 days testing. Owaid et al. [78] also believed such results obtained mix with different sand replacement levels with the GQD. The
were due to the presence of PFA. The PFA retarded the hardening results of the total porosity are in line with the results of intrinsic
process of the cementitious composites resulting in a more porous permeability as shown in Fig. 9. The porosity from a control mix to
microstructure produced on the first day. At 7 days, the k-value for GQD100 reported 12.02%, 14.05%, 13.55%, 13.51%, 13.31%, 14.67%
the ternary blended mortar with the GQD exposed different and 15.06% at day one of testing, while, 8.85%, 9.79%, 9.62%,
replacement levels varying from 0% to 100% reported nearly to 9.53%, 8.99%, 9.84% and 10.15% was reported as the porosity at
the k-value of the control mix. From the results explained in 7 days of testing. The results have shown that the ternary blended
Fig. 11, the presence of the GQD tends to compensate the reduction mortar exhibited a higher porosity as compared to the control mix
of the performance due to SCMs in the early age (1 day and 7 days) at an early age (1 day and 7 days). The high porosity of the mortar
C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306 301

Fig. 12. Total porosity of the mortar mix.


Fig. 13. Capillary absorption of the mortar mix.

containing GGBS and PFA at an early age (1 day and 7 days) was resistivity of the cementitious composites towards the aggressive
attributed to the dilution effect of cement as discussed earlier. ions such as sulfate and chloride penetration. This is believed to
The porosity of the ternary blended mortar was reduced signifi- give a negative impact towards the long-term durability perfor-
cantly from 1 day to 7 days as compared to the control mix. On mance of the cementitious composites. The samples used were
prolonged curing duration up to 90 days, the porosity of the cured up to 28 days by using moist curing methods. Thus, the per-
cementitious composites tends to decrease. This phenomenon formance of the specimens was able to give an indication of the
was attributed to the refinement of microstructure by the binders. service life of the mortar mix. The results showed that the rate of
Furthermore, from the results we have observed GQD20, GQD40 absorption was high during the first 8 h at a larger linear gradient
and GQD60 exhibited lower porosity than GQD0. The reduction in all mixes. This phenomenon was attributed to the water
of the porosity was reported in 1.7%, 2.7% and 8.2% for GQD20, absorbed to fill up the larger pores in the cementitious matrix.
GQD40, and GQD60 at 7 days curing. The phenomenon was largely 100% of the GQD replacement level showed the highest amount
due to the presence of the GQD improving the bonding perfor- of water absorbed in the first 8 h while 60% of the GQD replace-
mance on the paste-aggregate interface. Reduction in quantity on ment level showed the least water absorbed. The observation is
the continuity of capillary pores in the cementitious matrix was indicative of the ternary blended mortar with 100% GQD replace-
also resulting in a less porous microstructure. However, it was ment level possessing the highest degree of continuous capillary
observed that a high GQD replacement level exhibited higher pores in the cementitious matrix. Thus, it is expected that the resis-
porosity than GQD0 at all ages. GQD80 exhibited 4.4%, 0.5%, 1.6% tance to the ingress of aggressive ions such as sulfate and chloride
and 1.2% higher than GQD0, while GQD100 exhibited 7.2%, 3.7%, is relatively lower due to the high rate of absorptivity [80]. The Ca
5.4% and 3.7% higher than GQD0 at all testing ages. This was largely value of the ternary blended mortar with 40% of the GQD replace-
due to the presence of excessive fines from the GQD producing an ment level was relatively higher as compared to the ternary
increase in paste demand. A deficiency of paste volume led to poor blended mortar with 0% of the GQD replacement level within the
interlocking microstructure results though higher porosity was first 8 h. However, on the second day onwards, the Ca value of
observed. In addition, there was no observed significant reduction the ternary blended mortar with 40% of the GQD replacement level
in porosity of the control mix from 28 days to 90 days of testing. was observed to be lower than the ternary blended mortar with 0%
Meanwhile, the ternary blended mortar with different GQD of the GQD replacement level. This is primarily due to the larger
replacement levels still possessed some reduction in porosity. pores in the ternary blended mortar with 40% of the GQD replace-
The presence of the GQD possessed a lower porosity up to 60% of ment level. This was relatively more than GQD0. From the second
GQD replacement levels. Beyond 60% GQD content by total fine day onwards, the overall Ca results exhibited lower cumulative
aggregate, higher porosity was observed. Higher porosity observed weight gain as compared to the first 8 h. This was because the
in the mixes GQD80 and GQD100, was believed to reflect the large-sized capillary pores were completely filled up by the first
reduction of mechanical strength performance [80] as discussed 8 h. Overall, the use of GGBS and PFA as SCMs tends to reduce
earlier. As compared to the control mix, GQD100 possessed a rela- the degree of capillary pores in the cementitious matrix. The for-
tively higher total porosity (%). Generally, a lower w/b tends to pro- mation of the hydrates from GGBS and PFA has densified the
duce a denser and a more refine microstructure [80]. However, a cementitious matrix which results in a lower Ca value. Generally,
reduction in the w/b ratio would lead to insufficient proper com- the use of the GQD at various levels of sand replacement levels
paction which also leads to a more porous microstructure [77]. up to 80% enables the reduction in the degree of capillary pores.
Although GQD100 required a relatively lower w/b ratio to achieve This was believed due to the presence of rough and angular shapes
the initial flow diameter, however, the water absorption properties of the GQD physical appearance. Improvement of the performance
of the GQD was reported at 2.22% which is much more than the through better paste-aggregate bond reduced the continuity of
NRS with 1.61% water absorption. Higher water absorption proper- capillary pores [81]. This improvement was believed to have
ties have further absorbed the free water in the fresh cementitious reduced the porosity and air content in the cementitious compos-
composites resulting in less favorable compaction degree during ites. The ternary blended mortar with up to 100% of the GQD as
the placement of fresh mortar into the steel mold. sand replacement possessed a similar capillary absorptivity prop-
erty as the control mix.
3.8. Capillary absorption assessment

The capillary absorption of the mortar mix with different GQD 3.9. Drying shrinkage behavior
replacement level results was shown in Fig. 13. Basically, the cap-
illary absorption is given an overall insight towards the pore grad- Theoretically, drying shrinkage on the cementitious composites
ing of the cementitious composites. It is important to indicate the was due to the evaporation of internal free water from concrete or
302 C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306

mortar in the hardened state to the surrounding environment. Dry-


ing shrinkage behavior of the mortar mix with different GQD sand
replacement levels is depicted in Fig. 14. Based on the test results,
the incorporation of GGBS and PFA has reduced the drying shrink-
age of the cementitious composites. The presence of PFA and GGBS
has reduced the pore size due to its denser binder phase. This, in
turn, prevents the internal moisture evaporation results reducing
the drying shrinkage behavior [88]. The incorporation of SCMs
has reduced the water demand. The free water available was
decreased for subsequent evaporation from the internal pore
space, hence, reducing the degree of drying shrinkage [89]. Piasta
and Zarzycki [86] reported that lower drying shrinkage was
observed on the cementitious composites with a lower w/c ratio.
Thus, GQD100 with a relatively lower w/c ratio possessed the low-
est length change. From the results, the incorporation of the GQD
in ternary blended mortar tends to further improve drying shrink-
age behavior. As the GQD replacement level increases, the drying
shrinkage was reported to be reduced which is in line with previ- Fig. 15. SEM image of ternary blended mortar with 0% GQD replacement levels at
ous findings by other researchers [28,46,52]. This is largely because 28 days curing age at 150 times magnification.
the GQD is relatively coarser than the natural river sand. The
researchers have claimed that aggregates course in nature have
reduced the total specific surface area that reduce water demand
on that particular mix. With lower free water in the pore space,
the degree of drying shrinkage of the cementitious composites
would be reduced correspondingly [51].

3.10. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis

The scanning electron microscopy (SEM) is used to analyze the


microstructure of the cementitious composites at high magnifica-
tion levels. The back scatter-mode was used in this experimental
programme which gives clear graphical information on the internal
microstructure of the cementitious composites. Qualitative com-
parisons were conducted to study the interaction between ternary
blended mortar with 0%, 60% and 100% GQD under various magni-
fications within the same sample at 28 days and 90 days of curing.
Figs. 15–17 showed the SEM image of ternary blended mortar
with 0%, 60% and 100% of GQD replacement levels at 150 times
Fig. 16. SEM image of ternary blended mortar with 60% GQD replacement levels at
magnification. The qualitative assessment was conducted at 150
28 days curing age at 150 times magnification.
times magnification to study the overall morphology of the test
samples. A qualitative assessment revealed that the mortar matrix
of GQD0 possessed a number of pores in the image. As shown in
Fig. 16, GQD60 exhibited a more refined microstructure as com-
pared to GQD0 and GQD100 shown in Figs. 15 and 17. This was
believed to be due to the low w/b ratio results in producing a den-
ser microstructure. Reduction in the w/b ratio theoretically tends
to improve the compactness of the microstructure. The image cap-
tured in GQD100 mortar showed a significant number of pores
among the three mortar samples examined. This was largely due

Fig. 17. SEM image of ternary blended mortar with 100% GQD replacement levels at
28 days curing age at 150 times magnification.

to the poor compaction of the fresh mortar during placement into


the mold due to less free water in the surrounding matrix. A higher
magnification was then further applied on the spot to undergo fur-
Fig. 14. Drying shrinkage of the mortar mix. ther investigation on the morphology of the test specimens.
C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306 303

Figs. 18–20 showed the SEM image of ternary blended mortar


with 0%, 60% and 100% of GQD replacement levels at 3000 times
magnification at a curing age of 28 days. Based on the observation,
unhydrated PFA particles were observed at GQD0 in Fig. 18. It was
believed that the pozzolanic reaction from the PFA was not fully
being hydrated and contributed to the formation of the hydrates
framework. Zhou et al. [76] reported that the pozzolanic reaction
of the PFA is at later age (90 days and onwards). There are a num-
ber of pores also observed in Fig. 18. In Fig. 19, a more compact
microstructure was observed as compared to the microstructure
shown in Fig. 18. This was believed due to the presence of the
GQD densifying the microstructure matrix. Partial incorporation
of the GQD with NRS showed good interlocking interaction. How-
ever, Fig. 19 shows that there is some deficiency in the paste to be
fully surrounded the aggregate phase. According to the mechanical
and durability performance obtained previously, such a deficiency
in the paste or hydrate does not show significant variations. Fig. 20
represents the SEM image of GQD100 at 3000 times magnification
Fig. 20. SEM image of ternary blended mortar with 100% GQD replacement level at
at 28 days of curing. From the image shown in Fig. 20, a poor inter- 28 days curing age at 3000 times magnification.
locking microstructure was observed. There were a significant
number of pores observed. An increase in the GQD replacement
levels tends to reduce the w/b ratio to achieve targeted workabil- This results in improper compacting in fresh mortar placement.
ity. However, it was believed that higher water absorption proper- There is also a less quantity of cementitious product (hydrates)
ties of the GQD tend to the free water in the cementitious matrix. spotted on the surface of the GQD in GQD100 mix. This was
believed that the fines content in the GQD used were relatively
high and increased the specific surface area on the aggregate
phase. The binder volume has been kept constant in all the mortar
mix fabricated in this experimental program. As the GQD replace-
ment levels increase, the water demand was found to be reduced.
This resulted in less paste volume in the mortar matrix. Insufficient
paste volume was believed to be the main issue in the production
of the poor interlocking cementitious matrix. This accounted for
why full utilization of the GQD in the ternary blended mortar
showed less favorable results in terms of mechanical and durabil-
ity performance as previously discussed.
Figs. 21–23 showed the SEM image of ternary blended mortar
with 0%, 60% and 100% of GQD replacement levels at 150 times
magnification at 90 days of curing. From the image captured the
microstructure of the mortar mixes have been improved to a more
compact microstructure as compared to Figs. 18–20. Firstly, the
improvement in the microstructure morphology is due to the for-
mation of a more complete hydrated product. In such, the mechan-
ical and durability performance has been further improved from
28 days to 90 days of curing age. Therefore, the number of pores
Fig. 18. SEM image of ternary blended mortar with 0% GQD replacement level at
28 days curing age at 3000 times magnification. was found to be reduced as compared to the image captured at
28 days. However, there were still a few numbers of pores and

Fig. 19. SEM image of ternary blended mortar with 60% GQD replacement level at Fig. 21. SEM image of ternary blended mortar with 0% GQD replacement level at
28 days curing age at 3000 times magnification. 90 days curing age at 150 times magnification.
304 C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306

Fig. 22. SEM image of ternary blended mortar with 60% GQD replacement level at Fig. 24. SEM image of ternary blended mortar with 0% GQD replacement levels at
90 days curing age at 150 times magnification. 90 days curing age at 3000 times magnification.

Fig. 23. SEM image of ternary blended mortar with 100% GQD replacement level at Fig. 25. SEM image of ternary blended mortar with 60% GQD replacement levels at
90 days curing age at 150 times magnification. 90 days curing age at 3000 times magnification.

numbers of cracks in the mix GQD0 and GQD100 observed. Overall,


a more refined morphology was observed from Fig. 22 in GQD60.
Figs. 24–26 showed the SEM image of ternary blended mortar
with 0%, 60% and 100% of GQD replacement levels at 3000 times
magnification at 90 days of curing age. Under a larger magnifica-
tion, there were micro-cracks observed in both Figs. 24 and 26.
The presence of micro-cracks has explained the differential in both
mechanical and durability performance as compared to GQD60 as
previously discussed. The micro-cracks were believed due to the
evaporated water in the surrounding area. The water absorbed in
the natural river sand was relatively low as compared to the
GQD which possessed higher water absorptivity shown in Table 1.
The micro-cracks spotted in 100% of the GQD replacement level
was believed due to the high fines content contributed by the
GQD have consequently impacted the microstructure as discussed
previously. There was also observed fly ash particles which were
believed to have just started its pozzolanic reaction. This phe-
nomenon was expected to further enhance the cementitious com-
posite microstructure at longer curing age. Fig. 24 also showed that
Fig. 26. SEM image of ternary blended mortar with 100% GQD replacement level at
the NRS particles were surrounded by sufficient hydrate products 90 days curing age at 3000 times magnification.
as compared with GQD100 shown in Fig. 26. There was a deficiency
in the hydrate products present on the surface of the GQD particles
as shown in Fig. 26. Deficiency in the hydrates on the surface of the bound both the GQD and NRS firmly. Such microstructure further
GQD in the mix GQD60 was also observed. Fig. 24 has shown a pos- explains the reason for optimum mechanical and durability perfor-
itive interaction between the hydrates, NRS and GQD. The hydrates mance as previously reported.
C.B. Cheah et al. / Construction and Building Materials 197 (2019) 291–306 305

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