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The Remarkable Effect of Sugar in Concrete Construction

Yang Chen Nanjing University of Technology


Abstract: Basing on both experiments and practice, the authors elaborated the positive
influence and principle of sugar ( ordinary table sugar ) on concrete retarding, liquidity, density,
hydration heat, strength and other aspects, introduced good effect, adding ratio and issues needing
attention of adding sugar in the process of concrete construction, highlighted advantages of being
easy to obtained and with low cost, comparing with other additives, reached the conclusion that
sugar is a kind of good additive to be used in concrete construction (especially in undeveloped
countries).
Key Words: sugar ratio concrete collapsed slump retarding water reducing rate
flowability compacting anti-permeability efficient low-cost

Concrete construction often needs to use retarder, especially in pouring construction in


summer and large volume construction. Common retarders are with disadvantages of big mixing
amount, high cost, and not good effect. However, using sugar (sugar in this paper means ordinary
table sugar) as retarder, not only the effect is remarkable, but also the cost is low. Besides of being
a kind of retarder, it has other prominent effect. By that I Mean, we can describe sugar as a sort of
concrete admixture with excellent quality and reasonable price. Through the lab experiments and
multiple applications conducted by the authors, effective functions of sugar on concrete are given
as follows.

I. First of all---retarding on concrete

In large volume concrete construction, especially concrete pouring construction in summer


high temperature (such as large volume base, sliding framework etc.), caused by speed difference
between rather quick solidification of concrete and relatively slow concrete supply, cracks
affecting the quality of construction usually occur. Common solution is to add retarder in concrete
production .The market supply of the retarder admixture dosage is about 3% of cement, and
retarded time is generally 4 to 8 hours. Suppose in one cubic meter of concrete, cement dosage is
400kg, the general retarder price is around ¥3000 per ton, then the coagulant cost per cubic meter
is ¥36. But using sugar referred previously, only 0.1% of cement is needed, it will fully meet the
effect we expect. And the cost is only ¥2.38 per cubic meter, which is less than 1/10 of a common
retarder. Besides, achieving of such materials is convenient.

The retarding effect of sugar actually has something to do with the glucose catalytic
principle. According to the molecular formula of sugar, it belongs to the polyhydroxy compound.
Its surface has strong polarity, thus resulting in solid liquid adsorption, molecular hydroxyl groups
in the cement surface hindered cement hydration process, crystal contact between is shielded,
hinders the crystallization of continued growth, changes the structure of the forming process, main
changes to delay and delay of three calcium silicate hydrate crystal transformation, following table
is the retarding time of concrete mixed with ordinary Portland cement by sugar according to the
experimental data from laboratory and field application, in the daytime maximum temperature 31
degrees Celsius on average temperature of 26 degrees Celsius:

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Sugar amounts Retarding time ( h ) Notice
0.1% 7 Tested outside the lab, nature environment
0.2% 11 Tested on the site
0.3% 35 Tested outside the lab, nature environment

Note: the data of above table are just for reference. For practical application trial mixture
should be done previously according to specific environment temperature and the concrete
proportion, in order to get the necessary sugar amount for experimental retarding time that meets
actual retarding requirements.

II. Increase flowability and compactness (anti-permeability)


In terms of concrete pouring construction, concrete is often too viscous (with bad flowability)
to be put into formwork operation, such as thin wall slide framework, thin wall concrete board,
concrete water pool and etc.. As well as that, in these thin concrete projects, construction quality
will be influenced by bad flowability and hard flap. The bad effects are even more serious to water
pools with anti-permeability requirement, grain silos and cement silos with air tightness
requirement. If we handle this issue by increasing water amount to increase collapsed slump, it is
inevitable that this method does harm to concrete strength and anti-permeability. Instead, we can
solve this problem by adding appropriate amount of sugar.
The authors made experiments in the laboratory, added sugar (0.1% and 0.3% of cement
amount) into ordinary C30 concrete, the slump change were proved to be as follows.

Amount of sugar added Collapsed slump(cm) Impermeability


See Pictures.
0 7 /
0.1% 13 impermeability increased
0.3% 13.5 impermeability increased

Without sugar Added sugar amount (0.1%


of cement amount)
Collapsed slump (7 cm) Collapsed slump (13 cm)

2
Added sugar amount (0.3% of cement amount)
Collapsed slump (13.5 cm)
Contrast picture

NOTE: when amount of added sugar reaches 0.3% of the cement amount, the collapsed
slump is close to that with added sugar of 0.2%. By that I mean, when the mixing amount surpass
0.3%, it contributes little to increasing of collapsed slump.
On the site, if we add sugar with amount of 0.1% to 0.2% of the cement amount, collapsed
slump will be increased 7 to 10 cm. That is to say, without changing water cement ratio, the
flowability of concrete will be greatly increased. In practical construction, it is not only easier for
workers to pour into formwork, but also more convenient for workers to vibrate, so it is beneficial
for increasing anti-permeability of concrete.

III. Reduce hydration heat and temperature cracks


In mass concrete construction, temperature cracks often appear due to the uncontrollable
temperature difference between inside and outside mainly resulting from the heat hydration of
cement. While retarding effect of sugar delays and postpones the conversion of tricalcium silicate
crystal hydrates, delays heat hydration of cement. And reduces hydration heat peak, then reduces
the cracks of concrete caused by temperature difference. It is proved by practice that in term of
mass concrete construction without adding sugar, its center temperature peaked at 70 degrees
Celsius. Whereas, by adding sugar (2% of the cement amount ) ,its center temperature peaked at
55 degrees Celsius. Obviously, sugar not only can retard concrete, but also can reduce its
hydration heat.

IV. Using sugar as retarder can increase the later strength of concrete.
The author did three experiments, with the same concrete proportioning, the result of
comparative experiments on the concrete strength with or without sugar can be drawn as follows.
Added amount of sugar 3d 7d 28d 90d
strength ( strength ( strength(Mp strength(Mp
Mpa) Mpa) a) a)
Without sugar 14.6 19.62 30.6 32.71
0.1% of cement amount 1.67 16.17 34.23 38.21
0.3% of cement amount 1.39 14,35 31.07 40.38
Note: the data of above table just reflects the changing tendency. Different environment
conditions and different concrete proportioning etc. will lead to different results.
The author added 0.1% sugar in concrete in a silo slip-forming of a cement plant engineering
pouring concrete in summer. According to statistical comparison of 18 concrete test cubes, the 28d
strength generally increased between15% and 30%. This shows that in the case of the same
proportions, early strength of concrete with sugar is lower than that without sugar. But late
strength (28d or 28d later) will be slightly higher.
The reason is, water will be segregated on the concrete (with sugar) surface. This reflects
sugar has water reducing rate as an additive. In this way, the late strength of concrete will be
improved. The authors did an experiment like this. By adding sugar (0.1%of the cement amount),

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and reducing 12% of the concrete water consumption, concrete collapsed slump of concrete with
sugar and that without sugar are basically the same. Adding sugar (0.1% of the cement amount)
leads to about 10% water reduction. While adding 0.3%, the concrete water consumption is
theoretical reduced by 15%, therefore, sugar as a water reducing agent can improve late strength
of concrete like other water reducing agent (but early strength is rather low).

V. Notice
1. Above all, amount of sugar added in concrete cannot be excessive.
Although sugar is inexpensive and efficient, the dosage should be determined by strict tests.
When sugar amount is close to or surpass 0.3% of cement amount, collapsed slump will not be
increased, on the contrary, it will continue to decrease as the sugar amount increased, even occurs
segregation, but retarding time will increase continuously. In conclusion, sugar amount should be
less than 0.2% of cement amount. Usually, 0.1% can achieve a good construction effect.
2. A subsequent factor is that the speed of water segregation is fast.
The concrete surface will continue with water seeping after adding sugar. This is equivalent
to submerge of concrete aggregate. Thus, stationary concrete is prone to sugar uneven and
condense. If concrete is still for a long time (normally two hours), the concrete will be difficult to
vibrate compactly. Furthermore, the viscosity of concrete will be decreased. So, after adding sugar,
the concrete should be used up within 2 hours. Otherwise, segregation phenomenon will appear.
At the time of being pumped, we should be cautious that after concrete is pumped into the delivery
pump bucket, stagnation time ought to be less than 1 hour. Workers have to stir all the time,
otherwise it would sink and block the pump.
3. Suggestion on sugar adding method.
In order to let the sugar add into concrete evenly, sugar should configured solution and plus
to stirring material. (The concrete water consumption needs to consider the amount of water in the
sugar solution.) In addition, sugar can directly add in the stirring water of concrete.