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Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128

DOI 10.1617/s11527-010-9613-9


High mechanical performance of fibre reinforced

cementitious composites: the role of casting-flow
induced fibre orientation
Liberato Ferrara Nilufer Ozyurt

Marco di Prisco

Received: 29 April 2009 / Accepted: 12 April 2010 / Published online: 20 April 2010
RILEM 2010

Abstract Governing the dispersion and the orienta- fresh state performance, fibre dispersion and hardened
tion of fibres in concrete through a suitably balanced set state properties of self consolidating steel fibre rein-
of fresh state properties and a carefully designed forced concrete to achieve enhanced structural perfor-
casting procedure, is a feasible and cost-effective way mance tailored to the specific application.
to achieve a superior mechanical performance of fibre
reinforced cementitious composites, which may be Keywords Fibre reinforced cementitious
required by the intended application, even keeping the composites  Fresh state performance 
fibre content at relatively low values (e.g. around 1% Toughness  Fibre orientation  Constitutive
by volume). In this paper the possibility of pursuing the law identification
above said integrated approach has been addressed
in the framework of larger project focused on devel-
oping a deflection-hardening FRCC (DHFRCC), rein- 1 Introduction
forced with 100 kg/m3 (1.27% by volume) of short
steel fibres (13 mm long and 0.16 mm in diameter). Since the pioneering studies dating back to the early
The material has to be employed to manufacture thin sixties, research on fibre reinforced cementitious
(30 mm) roof elements, without any kind of conven- composites (FRCC) has led to continuous develop-
tional reinforcement, which have been anticipated to ments in the concept of new materials, enhanced theory
work, as simply supported beams, over a 2.5 m span. and modelling, processing and standardization [1].
The study hence paves the way to the possibility of All along an almost half a century odyssey, improved
exploiting at an industrial level the correlation among products for buildings and structures have been
developed and increasingly demanding and challeng-
ing structural applications have been successfully
L. Ferrara (&)  M. di Prisco
attempted. Benefits which can be achieved thanks to
Department of Structural Engineering, Politecnico di
Milano, Piazza Leonardo da Vinci 32, 20133 Milan, Italy the addition of an even relatively small amount of short
e-mail: (mainly, even if not exclusively, metallic) fibres to a
M. di Prisco cementitious matrix range from obvious ones, in
e-mail: terms of crack width control, fracture toughness and post-
cracking strength, to durability, ductility, fire resistance,
N. Ozyurt
impact resistance, diffusion resistance, imperviousness
Muhendislik Fakultesi, Insaat Muhendisligi Bolumu,
Bogazici University, 34342 Bebek/Istanbul, Turkey and, last but not least, constructability at reasonable
e-mail: cost [2].
110 Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128

As far the mechanical performance of the material effect of fibre orientation on the mechanical perfor-
is concerned, it has been clearly demonstrated that it mance has to be assessed through a suitable exper-
can be improved to such a point where the material imental procedure. This should form an integral part
may exhibit multiple cracks after initial cracking of the design approach in order to identify relevant
associated with a deflection-hardening response in material parameters.
bending, which may even be accompanied by a strain- In this paper the possibility of pursuing the above
hardening tensile behaviour. The achievement of the said holistic approach has been addressed in the
latter rather than the former, which may even be framework of larger project focused on developing a
suitable for several applications, strongly depends on deflection-hardening FRCC, reinforced with 100 kg/m3
the amount of fibres, on their dispersion [35] as well (1.27% by volume) of short steel fibres (13 mm long
as on their alignment with respect to the direction of and 0.16 mm in diameter). The material has to be
the applied tensile stress [68]. Besides being attrac- employed for thin (30 mm) roof elements, without any
tive from the cost point of view, reducing the fibre kind of conventional reinforcement, which have been
content, while still keeping a deflection hardening anticipated to work, as simply supported beams, over a
behaviour due to a more favourable orientation, may 2.5 m span [9]. Mix-design was first of all designed
also simplify the casting process, thus opening the through a multi-scale investigation (paste, mortar,
way to more widespread and larger scale practical FRCC) of the fresh state behaviour. The efficacy
applications. of the optimized mix composition to guarantee random
Governing the dispersion and the orientation of dispersion and tailored orientation of fibres was
fibres in concrete through a suitably balanced set of checked. 1 m 9 0.5 m slabs, 30 mm thick as in the
fresh state properties and a carefully designed casting intended application, were cast, with fresh concrete
procedure, if proved effective, would hence be a flowing parallel either to their long or short side. Beams
feasible way to achieve a mechanical performance of were then sawn from hardened slabs with their axis
the FRCC which is optimal to the intended applica- either parallel and vertical to the flow direction and
tion. The key idea is that the fluid mixture must be then tested in 4-point bending, either according and
self compacting, in order to fill the formwork without upside down to casting, to check for the influence of
any vibration or manual compaction. These opera- downward fibre settlement, if any. The results have
tions may infact hinder homogeneous fibre dispersion clearly demonstrated the possibility of orienting the
and hence affect the final structural performance due fibres along the casting flow direction of fresh concrete
to flaw effect of fibre-free or poorly reinforced zones. and the related outcomes in terms of mechanical
In details, the fresh state performance of the mixture performance. In order to clearly quantify the above said
must be characterized by an adequate viscosity, to effects a detailed measurement of the fibre orientation
drive and orient the fibres along the direction of the on the fracture cross sections of the tested specimens
casting flow. The value of the yield stress must be also has been performed by means of a micro-imaging
carefully calibrated to control the downward settle- analysis technique. The study hence paves the way to
ment of fibres due to their higher specific gravity exploit at an industrial level the correlation among
with respect to the suspending fluid mortar. Finally, the fresh state performance, fibre dispersion and hardened
casting process must be carefully designed so to make state properties of FRCC with adapted rheology to
the flow direction of fresh concrete, along which fibres achieve the material performance tailored to the
may be aligned, to match as close as possible with the intended application.
direction of the principal tensile stress within the
structural element when in service. In this way a more
efficient structural use of the material can be achieved,
leading to reduced or optimized structure size and self 2 Material mix-design and fresh state
weights, which also result into a more time- and cost- performance
effective construction process.
In order to spread this approach into the design and The actual mix composition of the HPFRCC
manufacturing practice of high performance fibre employed in the present investigation, shown in
reinforced concrete (HPFRC) structural elements, the Table 1, was determined through a multiscale
Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128 111

Table 1 Mix design of the employed fibre reinforced high mini-cone flow diameters in Table 2). With
cementitious composite reference to the intended application and casting
Constituent Dosage process, this was deemed as not crucial to the targeted
(kg/m3) performance and hence for the present investigation
the selected mix design was regarded as satisfactory.
Cement type I 52.5 600
Further information on the effect of fibre settlement
Slag 500
on the mechanical performance of the composite will
Water 200
be provided in the forthcoming sections (see also
Superplasticizer 33 (l/m3)
Sand 02 mm 983
The selected mix was hence tested at a precast
Straight steel fibres 100
(lf = 13 mm; df = 0.16 mm)
factory plant, where three batches, 1 m3 each, were
prepared and some full-scale prototypes of the
structural elements were cast [9]. The fresh state
optimization procedure. First of all the properties of performance of the mix was assessed through slump-
the fluid cement paste, as a function of the w/b ratio flow, V-funnel, L-box, U-box and J-ring tests,
and of the superplasticiser (SP) dosage, were assessed according to the relevant standards [1417], as
through the mini-cone slump and Marsh cone flow summarized in Table 4 (see also Fig. 1 for example
tests [10, 11]. A set of mortars was hence prepared by pictures). The results are a clear proof of the almost
combining in different ratios the sand with cement self leveling ability of the material, and furthermore
pastes, the composition of which was selected among provide some embryonic information about the
the previously investigated ones, also as a function of robustness of its fresh state performance, with
the actual paste/aggregate ratios. The effect of fibre reference to an on site manufacturing process. It
addition was finally investigated, also with reference is worth remarking that the quite high values of the
to the ability of the fibre reinforced fluid mixtures to V-funnel flow time (see also the values of the time to
drive the fibres and uniformly disperse them. This a 500 mm spread in the slump flow test, T50) are
was considered as a fundamental feature of the indicators of a likely high viscosity of the fibre
overall fresh state performance. A detailed descrip- reinforced composite, which is required to ensure a
tion of the mix-design optimization is given else- good fibre driving ability during the casting flow.
where [12]. For the mix composition employed in this The on-site fresh state characterization was by the
study the results of the above said procedure are way also instrumental at assessing the need of
summarized in Table 2 and in Table 3, as far the defining suitable test methodologies and equipments
stability of the fibres in static and dynamic conditions to measure the fresh state performance of such a kind
is concerned. Despite the good ability of the quite of fibre reinforced cementitious composite, where the
viscous matrix (see Marsh cone flow times in flow through narrow spaces, such as the V-funnel
Table 2) at driving the fibres along the flow (Table 3, orifice or the reinforcement gaps in L-box and U-box
centre and right column), downward settlement of devices, may be delayed by the high content of fibres,
fibres was not likely well counteracted (Table 3, left but, at the same time, may also be not representative
column), as expectable from the quite low yield stress neither of the intended application, with its geometry
of the suspending matrix (pointed out by the quite and details, nor of its casting process.

Table 2 Multi-scale approach for mix-design optimization: details of the fresh state performance
Cement paste Mortar Fibre reinforced mortar

Composition Slag/cement replacement ratio: 0.5 w/b Vpaste = 0.65 Vfibres = 0.013 (100 kg/m3)
0.18 SP 3% (by weight of binder) Vsand = 0.35 Vmortar = 0.987
Mini-cone flow diameter (mm) 470 395 368
Marsh cone flow time (s) 60 0500 30 5300
/ 11 mm (1lt over 1.5 lt)
112 Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128

Table 3 Results of tests for

static and dynamic
Static segregation Dynamic segregation
segregation of fibres (column test) Mini-cone slump flow Channel flow

Fiber dispersion in a channel-

Fiber dispersion in the
Fiber content along column like flow
mini-slump flown patty

Table 4 Results of the on site fresh state characterization

Batch Slump flow V-funnel L-box U-box J-ring
Diameter (mm) t50 (s) Flow time tV (s) Height ratio t200 (s) t400 (s) Height ratio Diameter (mm)

1 770 7 23 735
2 730 7
3 775 4 20 1 2.5 4 0.98 755

Fig. 1 On-site fresh state


Slump-flow V-funnel L-box U-box J-ring

3 Specimen manufacturing directly from the flying bucket moved through the
bridge crane around the precast plant. The slabs were
The casting of the specimens tested in the present cast according to two different procedures, which is, as
study was conceived to mimic, as close as possible, shown in Fig. 2, either pouring the material at one
the casting of the structural elements, so that any short edge of the moulds, and allowing it to flow
induced anysotropy on the mechanical performance parallel to the long sides, or, alternatively, pouring the
due to the fibre alignment, as governed by the casting material centrally along one long edge and achieving
flow and the fresh concrete viscosity, could be formwork filling through an almost radial spread of the
identified and consistently used to anticipate what fresh concrete.
would happen at the true-scale. From the slabs, when hardened, beam specimens
Two slabs 30 mm thick, as in the intended struc- 150 mm wide and 500 mm long were cut, according
tural application, and measuring 1 m 9 0.5 m in plan to the schematic also shown in Fig. 2, to be tested in
were cast. Fibre reinforced material was poured 4-point bending. In one case (slab A in Fig. 2) the
Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128 113

may not be a trivial a task, due to the computational

efforts required by the description of a fluid matrix
with embedded discrete wirelike particles, such as
fibres [19, 20]. In addition, wall effect along the
edges of the formworks most likely affected the
behaviour of a few specimens (beam L1 in slab B and
beam T1 in slab B) to an extent not larger than 10%
(as predictable from the ratio between the length of
the fibre lf = 13 mm, to the width of the specimen,
b = 150 mm).

4 Mechanical performance

Beam specimens, cut from hardened slabs as described

in the previous section, were tested in 4-point bending,
according to the set-up shown in Fig. 3. Beams labelled
as L3 and T3 from both slabs were tested upside down
Fig. 2 Schematic of slab-specimen casting and beam cutting to casting, to check for the effect of downward
(dashed specimens were further used for fibre orientation settlement of fibres. Tests were performed controlling
analysis) [measures in mm]
the actuator displacement, which was applied at a
5 lm/s rate, and measuring either the deflections below
axis of the beams, and hence the direction of the the loading points and the Crack Opening Displace-
principal tensile stresses due to the bending action, ment (COD) at the beam intrados over a gauge length
was either parallel or perpendicular to the flow equal to 200 mm. The test set-up complies with the
direction of the fresh concrete, along which the fibres prescriptions of the recently issued Italian guidelines
are believed to be aligned. In the other case (slab B in on the design of SFRC structures [21], where material
Fig. 2), the coincidence is likely to be jeopardized by characterization through tests on unnotched beams is
the radial flow, to an extent which is not easily recommended in the case of either structural elements
a-priori quantifiable, unless through some Computa- in bending less than 150 mm deep or deflection-
tional Fluid Dynamics modelling of the casting flow hardening FRCC, which both apply to the present
[18]. The position of specimens in the slabs was study.
devised in such a way that the possible location, From the loadCOD behaviour, shown in Fig. 4,
during tests, of the fracture zone was far from regions clear evidence appears of the effectiveness to align
were fibre orientation could have been affected the fibres along the flow direction of the fresh
turbulent/transient flow (close to points where con- concrete, due to its viscosity, as well as of the
crete was poured), with the only exception of beam influence of the thus obtained fibre orientation on the
T3 in slab A. It has to be remarked that the prediction mechanical performance of the composite material in
of such effects, even through numerical modelling, the hardened state.

Fig. 3 Scheme
and measuring instruments
for 4pb tests
114 Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128

Fig. 4 LoadCOD curves

for tested beams

In details, it can be observed that: when at rest, fibres in suspension thanks to its yield
stress, thus preventing their downward settlement.
with reference to slab A, where the moulds were
The comparison between the results from beams
filled by an almost 1-D flow of the fluid mixture
tested downside-and upside-down to casting allows to
parallel to the long sides of the slab, beams cut
have a significant insight into this problem. Still with
with their axis parallel to the fresh concrete flow,
reference to the beams cut from slab A, a significant
along which fibres are likely to be preferentially
difference in the mechanical performance (e.g. a 25%
oriented, exhibit a deflection-hardening behav-
less peak load) can be observed for beams cut with
iour, characterized by a pre-peak multicracking in
their axis parallel to the flow, whereas the difference
the constant bending moment and by a post peak
is much less evident (only 10% on the peak load), for
localization and propagation of a single major;
transverse beams cut from slab A, most likely due to
on the other hand, still with reference to slab A
the higher randomness of fibre orientation in the
but for the beams cut with their axis perpendic-
specimen tested upright. As remarked above, its
ular to the direction of the casting flow, a
original position in the slab was very close with the
deflection softening-behaviour, like for ordinary
zone where fresh concrete was poured. Higher
fibre reinforced cementitious composites, was
randomness of fibre orientation, due to the casting
flow directions, can be also called to understand the
in the case of slab B this remarkable difference in
differences, which still hold but to a less significant
the mechanical performance could have been
extent, in the case of beams cut from slab B. The
smoothed (jeopardized) by the radial spread of the
evident saw-tooth spikes, which stand as a distinctive
fresh concrete which most likely characterized
feature of the loadcrack opening behaviour mea-
the filling of formworks.
sured for beams tested upright, can be associated to
The limited scattering between results from nomi- the formation of a sequence of cracks in the most
nally identical beam specimens, which in some cases downward layer of the beams. This infact coincides
can also be interpreted in the sight of the previously with the uppermost one in the slab as cast, resulting
recalled wall effect, is a further index of the poorer in fibre due to the fibre settlement. Neverthe-
appreciable dynamic stability of the fresh concrete, less, as soon as a crack propagated into the depth of
which is effective, thanks to its viscosity, as above the fibre-lacking layer and encountered a zone richer
said, to drive the fibres and orient them along the in fibres, the crack propagation was arrested, which
casting flow direction, also guaranteeing their rea- allowed to recover load-bearing capacity, till another
sonably random dispersion within the cast element as crack formed at another location. This has obviously
a whole. affected, as also discussed above, the maximum load-
Besides this issue, static stability of the fresh bearing capacity of the beams, but, thanks to the
concrete was also evaluated, i.e. its ability to hold, reduction of the stored elastic energy, may have also
Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128 115

Fig. 5 Crack opening

versus load-point behaviour
for tested beams


been helpful at achieving a more stable post-peak account the different length scales involved in the
behaviour, as shown in Fig. 4. fracture process, to which the guideline prescriptions
The effect of fibre orientation and downward have to be furthermore adequately suited.
settlement on the kinematics and deflection stiff- In the pre-peak regime, where multiple cracking
ness of the tested beams was also investigated. As it has been observed in the central constant-bending-
clearly appears from the evolution of the COD versus moment region of the specimens, the length-scale
the measured average load-point deflection (Fig. 5), governing the measured loadCOD behaviour may be
the performance of beams cut with their axis reliably assumed equal to the COD-measuring gauge-
transverse to the orientation of the fibres, as induced length (COD = 200 mm). On the other hand, once
by the casting flow, was always characterized by a the localization into a single crack has occurred, the
faster growing COD, for the same load-point deflec- fracture governing length scale can be assumed equal
tion. This obviously affects the behaviour under to the specimen depth h. This does not apply to the
serviceability limit states, since a lower (higher) case of beams cut from slab A with the axis vertical
crack-opening under a prescribed deflection limit to the flow, for which a conventional-SFRC deflec-
(e.g. as a function of the span, in a code-wise tion-softening behaviour was measured, with no
perspective), corresponds not only to a higher (lower) multiple cracking. The governing length scale is
stress retention capacity and hence the ability to hence equal to h all along the fracture process.
sustain higher (lower) loads, but may also involve an In this case, coherently with a straightforward
improved durability. application of current guidelines on the design of
SFRC structures [21], from the nominal stress versus
4.1 Fracture toughness and identification of the COD curves, the following equivalent post-cracking
r-w law strengths have been calculated as indicators of the
material mechanical performance:
A quantitative analysis of the mechanical perfor-
mance has been performed by calculating suitable the first cracking matrix strength, fIf, defined as
toughness indicators as a function of the COD, the maximum nominal stress in the COD range
coherently with the prescriptions of the above 00.1 mm, the corresponding crack opening
referred guidelines [21]. Dealing with a deflection- being defined as wI;
hardening fibre reinforced material, the behaviour of the equivalent post-cracking strengths feq,1 and
which is characterized by a pre-peak multiple crack- feq,2, defined as the nominal stress averaged in the
ing followed by a single crack localization, the COD range 35 wI (mainly 0.30.5 mm in the
processing of the loadCOD curve to the above present case) and 0.02 h 20% (0.480.72 mm),
said purpose must be handled with care, taking into the last one corresponding to an average tensile
116 Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128

strain over the cross section equal to 1%. The for feq,2:
above said values should be regarded as repre-
0:02 h  20%  epeak h epeak COD 1b
sentative of the material load-bearing capacity in
the serviceability and ultimate limit states. for further limits:
It is by the way worth remarking that for the very 0:04 h  20%  epeak h epeak COD 1c
thin structural elements herein dealt with, the second 0:10 h  20%  epeak h epeak COD 1d
COD range may prove not adequate for a correct
design-oriented identification of a tensile stress versus
crack-opening law. This either because it is partially
overlapping with the first one and may be not enough This results in post-cracking equivalent strengths
representative of the actual ductility and deformation which are representative for the same openings of the
capacity of the material. For this reason post-cracking localized crack, irrespective of the flow-induced
equivalent strengths corresponding to higher COD orientation of fibres with respect to the tensile stress
ranges, respectively, equal to 0.04 h 20% and and of the consequently obtained deflection-harden-
0.10 h 20%, have been herein calculated. Under ing or softening behaviour.
the above recalled assumptions about the characteristic The results are summarized in Table 5 for all the 12
length governing the fracture process, whenever a tested specimens and provide quantitative confirmation
deflection-hardening behaviour accompanied by pre- to the experimental evidence, for a thorough appreci-
peak multiple cracking has been observed, the above ation of the mechanical performance of the material.
said procedure for the calculation of equivalent post- An attempt to address the issues concerning the
cracking strengths was modified as follows: identification of the tensile stress versus crack-
opening law from bending loadCOD curves has
the peak nominal stress, rN,peak and the correspond-
been also herein performed [22]. For the sake of
ing strain epeak = CODpeak/COD were calculated;
consistency, reference has been made only to spec-
the crack opening ranges for equivalent post-
imens tested according to casting, assuming average
cracking strengths were redefined according to
values for each couple of nominally identical spec-
the following relationships:
imens (either L1-2 and T-12 from either slab A or B).
for feq,1: As a starting point reference has been made to the
procedure recommended by the Italian guidelines [21],
35 wI  epeak h epeak COD 1a

Table 5 First cracking and post-cracking equivalent strengths at different COD calculated from load versis COD curves in Fig. 4;
peak stresses and corresponding CODs and strains
Specimen fIf feq,1 (N/mm2) feq,2 (N/mm2) feq (N/mm2) feq (N/mm2) rN peak CODpeak epeak
(N/mm2) 35 wI 0.02 h 20% 0.04 h 20% 0.1 h 20% (N/mm2) (mm)

A-L1 12.6 24.8 23.5 21.6 16.6 26.0 1.08 5.4e-3

A-L2 15.4 26.7 24.6 20.9 12.2 27.6 1.36 6.8e-3
A-L3 11.7 21.4 21.3 19.3 14.6 21.5 2.29 1.2e-2
A-T1 9.2 8.0 8.9 8.6 7.0 9.2 0.08
A-T2 8.9 8.4 8.8 8.4 6.8 8.9 0.10
A-T3 8.9 7.9 8.4 7.8 6.5 8.9 0.05
B-L1 12.4 23.3 23.5 19.8 13.7 24.1 1.12 5.6e-3
B-L2 12.7 22.9 21.4 19.5 15.2 23.5 1.07 5.4e-3
B-L3 12.3 22.6 21.9 18.1 14.5 22.8 1.79 9.e-3
B-T1 12.2 19.7 19.2 16.9 12.2 20.3 1.7 8.5e-3
B-T2 11.7 19.4 18.9 16.2 13.5 19.4 1.04 5.2e-3
B-T3 9.7 17.2 16.9 15.3 11.4 17.6 0.72 3.6e-3
Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128 117

Fig. 6 Crack opening (a)

stages and related stress
distributions assumed in
[17] for identification of
tensile r-w from bending


which assumes, for the beam cross section represen-

tative of the tested specimen, two relevant crack
opening stages, characterized by a crack opening at the
intrados, respectively, equal to 4 wI and wu = 0.02 h,
in correspondence of which the equivalent post-
cracking strengths feq,1 and feq,2 have been calculated.
Relevant parameters of the r-w law through are hence
identified through force and moment equilibrium
equations for the related stress distributions over the
cross section (Fig. 6a, b).
In the case of deflection hardening behaviour, it is
proposed to consider a pre-peak stressstrain law
(Fig. 7a, the first linear elastic branch is coherent (b)
with CEB-Model Code prescriptions) together with a
post-peak stress crack-opening law (Fig. 7b). This
can be still identified as in [21], provided inverse
analysis is carried out, also accounting for the pre-
peak stressstrain law. As a first trial reference has
been made to the same crack opening ranges as above
and hence to feq,1 and feq,2 calculated over the crack
opening ranges defined in (1a) and (1b).
The whole procedure detailed as above resulted in
either the stressstrain and/or stresscrack opening
Fig. 7 Pre-peak stressstrain (a) and post-peak stress crack-
laws shown in Fig. 8ad. It can be observed that, opening (b) laws for deflection-hardening materials (coeffi-
irrespective of the considered fibre orientation, they cients b1, j1 and j2 computed through inverse analysis)
are all featured by a quite steeper post-peal stress
drop, surely not representative of the true, experi- procedure, with related crack opening limits, as
mentally measured material performance. This points defined for conventional fibre reinforced concrete,
out the need to carefully reconsider the above said when a deflection hardening behaviour is considered
118 Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128

Fig. 8 Tensile stressstrain

and stress versus crack
opening laws identified
from 4pb tests

Slab A pre-peak Slab A post-peak

Slab B prepeak Slab B post-peal

[23]. For this reason, it has been herein proposed to 5 Fibre dispersion and orientation analysis
add a further crack opening stage at wu = 0.10 h and
calculate the corresponding equivalent strength in the Issues related to dispersion and orientation of fibres in
range defined in Eq. 1d. By applying inverse analysis fibre reinforced cement-based materials have been
under the above said assumption, the r-w laws shown recognized to play a significant role on the overall
in Fig. 8ad labelled as proposed procedure are structural performance, to which aim they have to be
obtained. After an initial stress-drop as before, a more evaluated. Different dispersion characteristics may be
gentle loss of the post-cracking residual bearing suited for different structural applications: while a
capacity has been got, which is likely to be much 1-D alignment of fibres could be favourable for a
more consistent with the experimental results. Sig- tensile or bent member which will be loaded in only
nificantly, the crack opening at zero stress turns out one direction, random orientation would be nec-
more or less closely to half the fibre length essary for a member which will meet forces from two
(lf = 13 mm) for all the investigated cases, which (such as a slab) or even three direction, such as for
would result in an average tensile strain over the bent example in a D-region. Results shown in the previous
cross section equal to lf/4 h [24]. sections have clearly demonstrated that fibre disper-
Research work is on-going in order to substantiate, sion and orientation characteristics, as induced by the
also in the sight of structural behaviour prediction, casting flow of the fresh concrete thanks to its
the proposed identification procedure. suitably calibrated performance in the fresh state,
Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128 119

may be crucial to obtain the anticipated high To study fibre orientation a tensor description
mechanical performance which is required for the method was used. The method is based on calculating
intended application. fibre orientation densities in reference directions. A
For this reason image analysis was carried out on a detailed description of the method can be found in
representation selection of tested specimens to eval- literature [2629]. This method is used to understand
uate the fibre dispersion and orientation characteris- fibre dispersion features of polymer matrix compos-
tics and attempt to find out a correlation with the ites. Ozyurt et al. applied the method to study fibre
previously calculated parameters, representative of orientation in cement-based materials [25].
the mechanical performance of the fibre reinforced The idea is based on defining 3-D fibre orientation
composite. state of a group of fibres by using a 2-D micrograph of
a sample. For a single fibre, the orientation state can be
described using in-plane (/0 ) and out-of-plane (h0 )
5.1 Fundamentals of the method angles (Fig. 10). On the other hand, to describe the
fibre orientation state of a number of fibres that are
Image analysis is a well developed and trusted distributed in a volume, a more general description is
method and is widely used to analyze fibre dispersion needed. The most commonly used description is the
properties in different materials. Basically, micro- probability distribution function, w, which gives the
graphs are taken from specimen cross sections and probability of encountering a fibre between the angles
various fibre dispersion related issues can be evalu- h0 1 and (h0 1 ? dh0 ) and /0 1 and (/0 1 ? d/0 ), and is
ated, such as fibre segregation, orientation, clumping, defined as,
etc. In this study focus was on fibre orientation and,
Ph01  h0  h01 dh0 ; /01  /0  /01 d/0
to a lesser extent, fibre segregation.
wh01 ; /01 sinh01 dh0 d/0 2
Because of the time consumption of the method,
fibre orientation was evaluated with reference to the It is also possible to involve fibre length as a
fracture surface of the specimens, also for a meaningful variable in Eq. 2 [27]; however this was not neces-
correlation with the measured mechanical properties. sary in this study, since rigid fibres with uniform
Four among the twelve tested specimens (respectively, circular cross-section and uniform length were used.
T2 and L2 in both slab A and B, see Fig. 2) were Thus, fibre length was not considered as a variable.
selected for fibre dispersion analysis, representative of As an alternative and simpler way, it is common to
all the possible combinations of fracture surface use a unit vector p, as shown in Fig. 9, to define
orientation with respect to the casting flow direction. orientation of a single fibre.
Due to the roughness of the fracture surface, a The components of p in three directions give the
diamond-saw cut was first made by means of a surface orientation state of a single fibre in reference directions
grinder. Micrographs 3 9 3 mm, as shown in Fig. 9
px0 sin h0 cos /0
were taken to map the specimen cross section.
Fibre counting was first performed: in order to get py0 sin h0 sin /0
information on the tendency of fibres to downward pz0 cos h0
settle, each cross section was subdivided into four
Since w (p) is a density function, the following
layers, having thickness from bottom to top of 9, 9, 9
normalization condition is valid.
and 35 mm (depending on the actual thickness). The
number of fibres in each of them was separately Zp Z2p I
counted and then normalized to the layer area. wh0 ; /0 sin h0 dh0 d/0 wdp 1 4
The analysis for fibre orientation, being much more
h0 0 /
time consuming and labour intensive, was performed
only on selected micrographs for each of the four The orientation distribution function, w (p), is known
specimen cross sections, as shown in Fig. 9b. This as a complete and general method to obtain the fibre
choice is meant, also on the basis of previous inves- orientation state; however, it is mentioned by various
tigation [25] as statistically representative of the fibre researchers [26, 28, 29] that the practical use of
orientation characteristics over the whole section. the function is cumbersome and needs intensive
120 Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128



81m m 60m m

3m m

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 (c)
40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51
52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66
67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81

82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96
97 98 99 100 101 102 1 03 104 1 05 10 6 107 108
109 110 111 112 113 114 1 15 116 1 17 11 8 119 120
121 122 123 124 125 126 1 27 128 1 29 13 0 131 132


Fig. 9 Specimen fracture surface after grinding and polishing (a); chessboard schematic for representative micrographs (b) and
example of a micrograph (c)

z orientation state. The calculations of orientation

tensors are straightforward, and they give concise
information about the fibre orientation density. Ori-
p entation tensors are obtained from moments of the
orientation distribution function. Non-even moments
are zero due to the symmetry of the function and
generally second order tensors are used to define
y orientation density.
P 0 0
p i p j n Fn
x aij P i; j x; y; z 5
Fig. 10 Description of the orientation state of a single fibre, In Eq. 5, aij stands for the components of the
in-plane (/0 ) and out-of-plane (h0 ) angles
orientation tensor, pi0 and pj0 represent components of
calculations. Therefore, Advani and Tucker [28] the unit vector p, F stands for the weighting function,
proposed the use of orientation tensors instead of and the subscript n shows the number of fibres. The
orientation distribution functions to describe the weighting function (F) is used to account for the effect
Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128 121

of fibre orientation on the probability of being inter- 5.2 Analysis of results: fibre counting
cepted by the cross-section under consideration. It is and orientation factor
clear that the probability of intercepting a fibre which is
aligned vertical to the cutting plane is much higher Results of fibre counting on the fracture cross
compared to a fibre aligned parallel to the section. To sections of the four examined specimens are summa-
obtain an unbiased estimate of fibre orientation, every rized in Table 6: the orientation factor a, calculated
component should be weighted as described in Eq. 6 from the specific number of fibres through the well
[27], where L stands for fibre length and h0 represents known formula by Soroushian and Lee [31], clearly
the out-of-plane angle. h0 c is the cutoff angle that can be show how effectively the fibres can be aligned along
described as the angle above which a fibre has a useful the casting flow direction of fresh concrete. The
projected height of fibre diameter d. influence of the casting geometry on the direction of
1 the flow also appears from the calculated values of
Fn for h0 \h0c
L cosh0n the orientation factor, substantially confirming the
  rough predictions on the supposed flow lines (Fig. 2).
l 0 0 0 1 d
Fn for h [ hc and hc cos 6 It is furthermore worth remarking that the number of
d L
fibres, as counted on the different layers along the
Global fibre orientation angles (h, /) have to be specimen depth, highlights that a certain, not negli-
determined from calculated fibre orientation angles (h0 , gible, downward settlement of fibres has occurred.
/0 ) considering the fact that measured angles depend This on one hand justifies the worst performance of
on the direction of the sectioning plane. The relation- specimens tested upright to casting and, on the other
ship between h0 , /0 and the global fibre orientation hand, has promoted a dedicated investigation to
angles h, / is given in Table 8 in Appendix A, as suitably modify the mix composition in order to
suggested by Rawal et al. [30]. reasonably overcome this drawback [13].

Table 6 Details of fibre

Spec-ID Layers Area No. of Fibres/cm2 % fibres/cm2 Af
a = nfibres V
counting from micrograph f
(cm2) fibres (nfibres)
analysis and fibre
orientation factors on A-L2 Top 7.2 130 17.9 9.0 0.282
fracture cross section of
selected specimens Top-int. 12.3 692 56.1 28.0 0.885
Bottom-int. 12.3 823 66.8 33.3 1.054
Bottom 13.8 818 59.4 29.7 0.937
Total 45.7 2463 53.9 100 0.850
A-T2 Top 6.7 112 16.7 15.7 0.263
Top-int. 12.7 491 38.7 36.3 0.611
Bottom-int. 12.0 297 24.8 23.2 0.391
Bottom 12.7 336 26.5 24.8 0.418
Total 44.1 1236 28.0 100 0.442
B-L2 Top 5.8 117 20.3 11.6 0.320
Top-int. 12.6 580 46 26.2 0.726
Bottom-int. 13.0 575 44.4 25.3 0.700
Bottom 13.7 887 64.8 36.9 1.022
Total 45 2159 48.0 100 0.757
B-T2 Top 9.4 143 15.2 11.5 0.240
Top-int. 12.1 325 26.9 20.5 0.424
Bottom-int. 13.1 577 43.9 33.4 0.693
Bottom 12.1 548 45.4 34.5 0.716
Total 46.7 1593 34.1 100 0.538
122 Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128

5.3 Micrograph analysis Fig. 11 Fibre orientation densities in specimens cut from slab c
Acast parallel to the long side: schematic of the analyzed
specimen position and reference system (a); results from
A deeper insight into the orientation of the fibres with micrograph analysis for fracture surfaces of specimens L2 (b)
respect to the fracture surface has been obtained and T2 (c)
through the micrograph analysis and data processing
described in the previous section. The schematics in opening on the fibre orientation density vertical to the
Figs. 11 and 12 and data in Table 7 detail for each fracture surface (Fig. 13).
specimen and for each of the examined fracture This provides solid experimental evidence to the
surface subsections the computed values of the idea that the fresh state properties of the material and
orientation density in the x, y and z directions. the casting process can be effectively tailored to orient
The results referring to the whole fracture surface the fibres along the direction of the tensile stresses.
provide a strong quantitative evidence to what above When applied within the structural element in service,
said for the orientation of the fibres along the this yields superior material and structural perfor-
direction of the flow, also highlighting a remarkable mance. Minimum values of the orientation factors
difference to the geometry of the casting. As it is could hence be specified in order to achieve the
plain from the data, in the case of slab A, cast required mechanical performance; the casting and
allowing an almost 1-D flow parallel to the longer manufacturing process could also be suitably designed
boundaries, the value of the fibre orientation density to obtain the optimized orientation through the aid of
in the direction of the flow is more than twice than in computational fluid dynamics modelling of fresh
the transverse direction. On the other hand, in the concrete flow. Non-destructive techniques for fibre
case of slab B, where the moulds were most likely dispersion and orientation monitoring should finally be
filled by a radial spread of the fluid concrete, a ratio used for continuing quality control.
close to 1.5 between the fibre orientation density in
the two directions of the plane was computed,
coherently with the flow lines hypothesized in Fig. 2. 7 Concluding remarks
It is likewise evident, by looking at the results in
each single cell as well as at the averages and related The present study has shown that the orientation of
scattering (Table 7) computed over each single layer, steel fibres within a SFRC structural element can be
that results are less dispersed and more coherent with effectively governed through a well balanced fresh
the global tendency, as above illustrated, in the state performance, as obtainable by virtue of an
bottom layers, close to the mould bottom surface, appropriate mix composition, and a suitably designed
whereas they tend to become larger dispersed when casting process.
approaching to the free surface of the castings. This The orientation of the fibres significantly affects,
can be explained by considering the transition from a as expectable, the mechanical performance of the
shear flow, close to the moulds, towards an exten- fibre reinforced cementitious composites. This may
sional flow, close to the free surfaces, the former be a discriminating factor to obtain a high mechanical
being much more effective than the latter in driving performance of the material, such as for example
and orienting the fibres along its direction [32]. deflection hardening or even reliable strain hardening
behaviour, besides suitable selection of fibre type,
fibre volume fraction, fibrematrix bond and matrix
6 Correlation between mechanical properties The procedure for the identification of the stress
and fibre orientation strain and/or stresscrack opening laws to be used in
design should be coherent for both deflection soften-
The correlation between the orientation of the fibres, ing and deflection hardening behaviour, which may
evaluated as above, and the mechanical properties of pertain to the same material as a function of fibre
the composite has been finally quantitatively assessed. orientation. In this paper the procedure recommended
A remarkable dependence is observed of the toughness by Italian guidelines for conventional SFRCs has
properties of the material at different levels of crack been adapted to deflection hardening behaviour
Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128 123

(a) z

y T2 L2
x G3L3T

0,156 0,168

0,616 0,634

0,229 0,198
x 0.198
L2 y 0.634
z 0.168

0.018 0.050 0.089 0.307 0.005

0.955 0.878 0.911 0.566 0.836
0.027 0.072 0.000 0.126 0.159


0.104 0.257 0.105 0.451

0.810 0.610 0.771 0.369
0.086 0.133 INTERM. 0.124 0.180

0.120 0.166 0.074 BOTTOM 0.329 0.301

0.676 0.626 0.690 0.255 0.437
0.204 0.209 0.237 INTERM. 0.417 0.261

0.429 0.123 0.190 0.106

0.542 0.766 BOTTOM 0.559 0.742
0.029 0.111 0.251 0.151

x 0.229
T2 y 0.616
z 0.156
0.221 0.328 0.116
0.681 0.566 0.856
Empty 0.098 0.105 0.027

0.573 0.247 TOP 0.672 0.167

0.381 0.561 0.224 0.435
0.045 0.192 INTERM. 0.103 0.398

0.239 0.201 0.224 0.156

0.668 0.751 0.511 BOTTOM 0.755
0.094 0.048 0.264 INTERM. 0.129

0.159 0.276 0.100 0.191

0.805 0.684 BOTTOM 0.781 0.677
0.063 0.040 0.120 0.132
124 Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128

(a) Casting


0,072 0,046

0,379 0,348

0,549 0,606
x 0.549
G3S1P y 0.379
z 0.072
x=0.214 0.546 0.282 0.444 0.277
y=0.744 0.293 0.708 0.424 0.526
z=0.043 0.162 0.010 0.132 0.196


0.668 0.593 TOP 0.404 0.459

0.260 0.353 0.550 0.444
0.071 0.054 INTERM. 0.045 0.098

0.661 0.550 0.767 BOTTOM 0.514 0.508

0.262 0.371 0.178 0.417 0.401
0.076 0.079 0.055 INTERM. 0.069 0.091

0.717 0.612 0.537
0.225 0.343 BOTTOM 0.379
0.058 0.044 0.103

x 0.606
G3S1T y 0.348
z 0.046

x 0.952 0.880 0.448

y 0.028 0.090 0.339 Empty
z 0.020 0.030 Empty

0.825 0.840 0.634 0.829

0.113 0.118
TOP 0.346 0.125
0.061 0.042 INTERM. 0.019 0.046

0.702 0.657 0.541 0.630 0.381

0.264 0.292 0.442 0.340 0.542
0.034 0.051 0.016 INTERM. 0.031 0.077

0.381 0.521 0.458 0.398

0.546 0.448 BOTTOM 0.507 0.541
0.073 0.031 0.034 0.060
Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128 125

b Fig. 12 Fibre orientation densities in specimens cut from slab Table 7 continued
Bcast parallel to the short side: schematic of the analyzed
specimen position and reference system (a); results from Specimen Layer Average Coefficient
micrograph analysis for fracture surfaces of specimens L2 (b) of variation
and T2 (c)
X 0.531 0.12
Y 0.402 0.12
Table 7 Results of micrograph analysis of specimen fracture
surfaces: average values and coefficient of variations of ori- Z 0.067 0.02
entation numbers in x, y, z directions Bottom-intermediate
X 0.600 0.11
Specimen Layer Average Coefficient
of variation Y 0.326 0.10
Z 0.074 0.01
A-L2 Top
X 0.094 0.12
X 0.605 0.08
Y 0.829 0.15
Y 0.327 0.07
Z 0.077 0.07
Z 0.068 0.02
B-T2 Top
X 0.229 0.16
X 0.760 0.27
Y 0.640 0.20
Y 0.152 0.16
Z 0.131 0.04
Z 0.088 0.11
X 0.198 0.11
X 0.782 0.10
Y 0.647 0.19
Y 0.176 0.11
Z 0.266 0.09
Z 0.042 0.02
X 0.212 0.15
X 0.582 0.13
Y 0.652 0.12
Y 0.376 0.11
Z 0.135 0.09
Z 0.042 0.02
A-T2 Top
X 0.222 0.11
X 0.440 0.06
Y 0.701 0.15
Y 0.510 0.05
Z 0.077 0.04
Z 0.050 0.02
X 0.415 0.24
Y 0.400 0.14 through suitable offset with respect to the peak of
Z 0.184 0.15 the relevant crack opening ranges for the calculation
Bottom-intermediate of post-cracking equivalent strengths. The check of
X 0.205 0.04 the reliability of the proposed identification proce-
Y 0.671 0.11 dure is on going.
Z 0.134 0.09 All what above said converges towards the defi-
Bottom nition of a holistic design approach, which tailors
X 0.182 0.07 both the material composition and the casting process
Y 0.737 0.07 to the anticipated structural performance. This would
Z 0.089 0.04 require the orientation of fibres to match as close as
B-L2 Top possible with the direction of the principal tensile
X 0.353 0.14 stress within the structural element when in service,
Y 0.539 0.19
so to achieve a more efficient structural use of the
Z 0.127 0.06
material. In this way a desirable closer correspon-
dence between the shape of an element and the
126 Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128

quality control procedures for fresh state : due the

peculiarity of the material test methods currently
applied for plain SCC, also employed in the
present study, may not be immediately applicable
and an effort in defining the most suitable tests as
well as towards some standardization should be
done. This requires robustness tests on the field,
on construction sites and in precast factories, to
also assess the robustness of the mix-design
methodologies and validate the proposed test
monitoring of fibre dispersion related issues: image
analysis, as herein performed for a pilot study and a
limited number of specimens, is an extremely time
consuming and labour intensive method. Fast and
reliable non-destructive techniques have been
developed and assessed at the lab-specimen scale
and their transfer into full-scale structural
applications has been addressed. An effort from
the industry is required to check the suitability of
the different techniques developed so far, with
reference to a broader range of case studies, so to
effectively implement them into quality control
procedures of material suppliers and (precast)
structural element manufacturers;
quality control procedures for hardened state
performance: they actually represent another key
issue for structural design since material proper-
ties relevant to it need to be experimentally
identified. Also in this case the peculiarity of the
material and of the designed structural applica-
tions have to be considered form case to case:
specimens should be designed, cast and tested so
Fig. 13 Correlation between mechanical performance of the
fibre reinforced cementitious composite (post-cracking equiv-
to mimic the manufacturing process and the
alent stresses) and fibre orientation parameters structural function of the element when in service,
mainly as far as the dispersion and orientation of
fibres is concerned. Modelling of fresh concrete
function it performs in a structure assembly could be
flow can provide reliable tools to design the
pursued in the design. A suitably balanced fresh-state
casting process for optimum fibre dispersion and
performance of the fibre reinforced cementitious
orientation. It is furthermore important to account
composite would allow to mould the shape of an
for the anisotropy of the material, due to flow-
element and, thanks to a tailored casting process, to
induced fibre-orientation, both in design and
orient the fibres along the direction of the principal
experimental identification of material properties.
tensile stresses resulting from its structural function.
This work has been also instrumental at highlight-
ing some open questions which, in the authors Acknowledgements Cooperation between Politecnico di
Milano and Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey, was made
opinion, still hold and deserve further investigation at possible by the support of the regional Council of Lombardia,
both the theoretical and applied research level, as Project Code PD08BVARI01 which is gratefully acknowledged.
hereafter pointed out: Work on micrograph image analysis done at Bogazici
Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128 127

University, Istanbul, was funded by Bogazici University section is not needed becuase, only the orientation
Research Fund, Project Code 07HA403. The support of BASF densities in the reference directions (x, y, z) were
Construction Chemicals within a research grant to Politecnico di
Milano is also gratefully acknowledged. needed and these values were not affected by the
symmetry assumption.
2. The probability (of a fibre) of being intercepted
Appendix A by the cross-section under consideration. It is
well known that the probability of intercepting a
See Table 8. fibre which is aligned vertical to the cutting plane
is much higher compared to a fibre aligned
parallel to the section. F function is used to count
Table 8 Calculation of global fibre orientation angles [27] in for this effect.
3. The third ambiguity occurs due to the fibres
Section Local coordinates Vector components
plane on the section plane oriented nearly perpendicular to the sectioning
plane (h0 & 0). That ambiguity can be decreased
XY x0 = x px = sin h0 cos /0
by increasing the magnification of micrographs.
y0 = y py = sin h0 sin /0
In this study, the tendency of fibres being oriented
z0 = z pz = cos h0
in reference directions was needed. There-
XZ x0 = x px px0 sinh0 cos/0
fore, a detailed error analysis was not carried
y0 = -z py pz0 cosh0
z0 = y pz py0 sinh0 sin/0
out, instead orientation analysis was repeated
without including the fibres with h0 \ 5 and the
results were compared (Table 9). No drastic
change is seen in the resulting orientation tenden-
cies, when fibres with h0 \ 5 are not included.

x y Table 9 Orientation density functions calculated for all fibres
and selected fibres
YZ x0 = y px pz0 cosh0
Specimen All fibres included Selected fibres (fibres with
y =z0
py px0 sinh0 cos/0 h0 \ 5 not included)
z0 = x pz py0 sinh0 sin/0
z A-T2
px 0.229 0.199
py 0.616 0.639
x pz 0.156 0.162
px 0.198 0.240
py 0.634 0.560
pz 0.168 0.200
Appendix B
px 0.549 0.519
py 0.379 0.404
Errors and ambiguities involved in measurement
pz 0.072 0.077
1. Two possible values of in plane angle since fibres B-T2
with orientations /0 and /0 ? 180 have identical px 0.606 0.639
cross-sections. For complete 3-D information, at py 0.348 0.312
least 2 orthogonal cross-section of a specimen pz 0.046 0.049
should be analyzed. In this study a second cross-
128 Materials and Structures (2011) 44:109128

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