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BY V. M.

MALHOTRA
HEAD, CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS SECTION
MINERAL PROCESSING DIVISION
MINES BRANCH
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY,
MINES AND RESOURCES
OTTAWA, CANADA
R
e s e a rch has been done at the
Mines Branch for the purpose
of producing concretes with high
s t rength at early ages at a pri c e
c o m p e t i t i ve with conventional con-
c rete or cheaper. Ex p e n s i ve
monomers that re q u i re high pre s-
s u re to impregnate the concre t e
were ruled out. Instead, simple and
e f f e c t i ve pro c e d u res for using
cheaper materials such as sulfur
we re sought. Some of the re s u l t s
obtained up to now are given here.
General charact eri st i cs
The work has resulted in a new
type of high-strength concre t e
made from lean, two-day old con-
ventional concre t e, using sulfur in-
f i l t ration technique. In the labora t o-
ry the method has consisted of
m o i s t - c u ring fresh concrete speci-
mens for 24 hours, drying them at
250F (121C) for 24 hours, immers-
ing them in molten sulfur under
vacuum for two hours, releasing the
vacuum and soaking them for an
additional half hour, then re m ov i n g
them from the sulfur to cool. They
a re tested one to two hours later. In
a simplified version of the above
p ro c e s s, vacuum is eliminated and
immersion time in molten sulfur is
i n c reased to four hours.
Phenomenal increases have been
obtained in the mechanical and
elastic pro p e rties of sulfur- i n f i l t ra t-
ed specimens. The compre s s i ve
s t rengths increased about ninefold
over those of the re f e rence moist
c u red specimens, which we re about
1000 psi (70 kilograms force per
s q u a re centimetre). A corre s p o n d-
ing increase was observed in the
f l e x u ral strength of the infiltra t e d
test pri s m s.
The sulfur- i n f i l t rated specimens
a re in excellent condition after 800
c ycles of fre ezing and thawing,
w h e reas the re l a t i vely low s t re n g t h
re f e rence moist-cured specimens
had completely disintegrated after
40 cyc l e s.
Su l f u r- i n f i l t rated concrete should
h a ve applications in pave m e n t s,
b ridge decks and many pre c a s t
p ro d u c t s.
Devel opment of sul fur-i nfi l t rat -
ed concret e
At the Mines Branch work done in
1973 indicated that when conve n-
tional concrete specimens we re
s u b m e rged in molten sulfur they ex-
hibited enormous increases in
s t rength. Somewhat similar obser-
vations had been re p o rted else-
w h e re by W. H. Kobbe in 1924 and
Neils Thaulow in 1972. Sulfur is a
c h e a p, inert material which is abun-
dantly available in Canada and the
United St a t e s. Because it has a low
viscosity at 250F (121C), it war-
rants serious consideration for use
in concrete .
Co n s e q u e n t l y, the first experi-
mentation at the Mines Branch on
sulfur infiltration of concrete was
initiated in two simple steps. In the
first step, concrete cubes and cylin-
der specimens we re made with a
Sulfur-infiltr ated concrete
An alternative to the more expensive polym impregnated concrete?
Compari son of physi cal proper t i es of sul fur-i nfi l t rat ed concret e t o t hose of t he
l ow-cement concret e from whi ch i t was made
conventional
concrete of sulfur-infultrated
low-cement concrete
content
Unit weight,
pounds per cubic foot 1 4 8 1 5 5
C o m p ressive stre n g t h , p s i 1 0 0 0 1 0 , 0 0 0
Splitting tensile strength, psi 3 0 0 1 5 0 0
Youngs modulus of elasticity,
million psi 3 7
Poissons ratio 0 . 2 1 0 . 2 5
F reeze-thaw resistance, cycles
to disintegration 4 0 8 0 0 *
Unit weight,
kilograms per cubic meter 2 3 7 0 2 4 8 5
C o m p ressive stre n g t h , k i l o g r a m s
f o rce per square centimeter 7 0 7 0 0
Splitting tensile stre n g t h
kilograms force per square
c e n t i m e t e r 2 1 2 1 0
Youngs modulus of elasticity,
kilograms force per square
c e n t i m e t e r 2 1 0 , 0 0 0 4 9 2 , 0 0 0
Poissons ratio 0 . 2 1 0 . 2 5
F reeze-thaw resistance, cycles
to disintegration 4 0 8 0 0 *
*In excellent condition after 800 cycles
design mix of only 390 pounds of ce-
ment per cubic yard (234 kilogra m s
per cubic metre). These we re moist
c u red for 24 hours and then dried at
250F (121C) for 24 hours. At the
end of the drying period specimens
we re immersed in molten sulfur for
a period of four hours. They we re
then re m oved, wiped clean, allowe d
to cool for one hour, and tested.
Co m p re s s i ve strength values of 5000
psi (344 kilograms force per square
c e n t i m e t re) we re achieved, indicat-
ing a fourfold increase in stre n g t h
c o m p a red with the strength of re f e r-
ence moist-cured specimens.
En c o u raged by these pre l i m i n a ry
f i n d i n g s, the development work was
c a r ried further by introducing a
t h i rd operation, evacuation of the
system to increase the amount of
sulfur that infiltra t e s. The re s u l t i n g
final process was carried out in a
system like that in the Fi g u re.
Test specimens used we re
twoinch (51-millimetre) cubes, 3- by
6inch (76- by 152-millimetre) cylin-
d e r s, 4- by 8-inch (102 by 203mil-
l i m e t re) cylinders and 1.5- by 1.5- by
6-inch (37.5- by 37.5- by 152-mil-
l i m e t re) pri s m s. These we re cast
f rom a concrete mix with a waterc e-
ment ratio of 0.80 and a cement
content of 405 pounds per cubic
y a rd (240 kilograms per cubic
m e t ro). After casting, the specimens
we re moist cured for 24 hours and
placed in a heating cabinet at 250
d e g rees F (121 degrees C) for an ad-
ditional 24 hours. On completion of
the drying cyc l e, the hot specimens
we re weighed and placed in a con-
tainer of molten sulfur also at 250
d e g rees F. The sulfur container was
then connected to a small va c u u m
pump through a cold trap and eva c-
uated at approximately two mil-
l i m e t res of merc u ry for two hours.
The vacuum was then released and
the specimens we re allowed to soak
in the liquid sulfur fdr an additional
half hour. At the end of that time the
c o n c rete samples we re re m ove d ,
cleaned, cooled at room tempera-
t u re for an hour, weighed again and
then tested.
The test results we re spectacular.
For example, after 54 hours, 4by
8inch (102- by 203-millimetre )
cylinders which had been infiltra t e d
with 12.6 percent sulfur by weight of
the test cube broke in compre s s i o n
at about 1 0,000 psi (700 kilogra m s
f o rce per square centimetre). This
c o m p a red with 1000 psi (70 kilo-
g rams force per square centimetre )
for re f e rence moist-cured speci-
mens cast at the same time. In flex-
u ral tests,1.5- by 1.5- by 6-inch
( 3 7 . 5 by 37.5- by 152-millimetre) sul-
f u ri n f i l t rated prisms with a waterc e-
ment ratio of 0.80 and tested at 54
hours developed a strength of 1850
psi (127 kilograms force per square
c e n t i m e t re) compared with 215 psi
(15 kilograms force per square cen-
t i m e t re) for re f e rence moist-cure d
s p e c i m e n s.
The densities of the sulfur- i n f i l-
t rated specimens we re genera l l y
higher than those of re f e re n c e
m o i s t - c u red specimens, the differ-
ence being approximately seve n
pounds per cubic foot (11 2 kilo-
g rams per cubic metre ) .
The precise reasons for such larg e
i n c reases in strength obtained in
this investigation are not fully un-
derstood but are probably due to
the filling of the capillary pores with
s u l f u r, resulting in a new composite
m a t e ri a l .
As mentioned earlier, in subse-
quent fre eze-thaw tests, the
m o i s t c u red cubes disintegrated af-
ter only 40 cycles whereas sulfuri n-
f i l t rated cubes using the eva c u a t i o n
p rocess are still in excellent condi-
tion after 800 cyc l e s. It should be
pointed out that the moistcure d
cubes we re of the same low -
s t rength concrete that was used to
make sulfur- i n f i l t rated specimens,
and such a low - s t rength concre t e
would not ord i n a rily be used for
f re eze-thaw exposure in pra c t i c e.
The high fre eze-thaw resistance of
the sulfur- i n f i l t rated concrete is all
the more re m a rkable because no
a d m i x t u res had been used in the
m a n u f a c t u re of the concre t e. In ad-
dition, this durability was achieve d
in only two days, whereas test spec-
imens made from conve n t i o n a l
c o n c rete have to be cured for at least
14 days before they can be safely ex-
posed to fre eze-thaw cyc l i n g .
Test resul t s
Typical results of some of the
physical and elastic pro p e rties are
listed in the table for sulfur- i n f i l t ra t-
ed concrete made from concrete of
the following mix pro p o rt i o n s :
PoundsKilograms
per cubicper cubic
yard meter
Cement content 405 240
Coarse aggregate,
Iimestone,
3
8-inch
maximum 1616 955
Fine aggregate,
natural sand 1580 940
Water 323 191
Water-cement ratio: 0.80
Aggregate-cement ratio: 7.9
(Both ratios by weight)
Schemat i c di agram of equi pment used i n t he l aborat ory for sul fur i nfi l t rat i on
Appl i cat i ons
Su l f u r- i n f i l t rated concrete is vir-
tually immune to salt scaling, and
this suggests that it may find its
g reatest jobsite use in patching side-
walks and pave m e n t s. It could also
be used for new pavement, bri d g e
d e c k s, curbs, median barriers and
bases for lamp posts.
It is also excellent for use in any
applications that re q u i re re s i s t a n c e
to chemical attack of any kind. El e-
mental sulfur is inert to most chem-
ical agents. In addition to filling the
p o res of the cement paste during in-
f i l t ration the sulfur is thought to
f o rm a pro t e c t i ve film over the sur-
face that wards off chemical attack.
It is doubtful that cast-in-place
s t ru c t u ral concrete could be eco-
nomically infiltrated with sulfur.
Fu rt h e rm o re such use would almost
always be impractical because sul-
fur melts at 234F (112C), and for
this reason high tempera t u re or fire
would quickly imperil its stru c t u ra l
i n t e g ri t y.
T h e re are other obvious applica-
tions in the precast industry. Su l f u r-
i n f i l t rated concrete is ideally suited
for precast units such as patio slabs,
s i d e w a l k s, curbs, sewer pipe, silo
s t a ve s, units for tunnel linings, and
c o r ro s i o n - resistant block or panels.
Pre l i m i n a ry cost estimates indi-
cate that the sulfur- i n f i l t rated pre-
cast concrete units should be com-
p e t i t i ve with, if not cheaper than,
units cast from conventional con-
c re t e. The added cost of sulfur itself
and the equipment for infiltra t i o n
should be offset by considera b l e
savings in cement. The shortage of
cement in the United States and the
p robability of imminent incre a s e s
in its price make sulfur- i n f i l t ra t e d
c o n c rete a ve ry attra c t i ve constru c-
tion material for some uses.
PUBLICATION #C750091
Copyright 1975, The Aberdeen Gro u p
All rights re s e rv e d