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Technical Paper

Reference : TP-GB-RE-LAF-028

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by Charles Alt*, Lana Wong**, Christopher Parr***

* Kerneos
100 Ohio Street
Chesapeake, VA 23324 - USA
** National Refractories & Minerals Corporation 1852 Rutan Drive
Livermore, CA 94550 - USA
***Kerneos France

Presented at Unitecr 01 refractory conference, Cancun, Mexico 2001

Technical Paper
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stiffness of the castable in a flexible container
As castable placement technology advances, (e.g. cup). Once this reaction has occurred, it is
often referred to as “set” or “initial set” or
further information is needed to assess the
“gelled”. After this reaction, a castable does not
rheological properties. Flowability, set time and
necessarily have sufficient mechanical strength
st ren gt h g ai n m easur em ent s h av e been
to survive significant handling. Measured
successfully used to assess rheology, however a
compressive strength numbers may only be on
growing number of laboratories are supplementing
these measurements with an Exothermic Profile the order of about 1.5 MPa (220 psi). When this
measurement of the castable and also the raw reaction is related to the initial dissolution of
materials used to formulate the castable. CAC, it can release a small amount of heat,
which may be measured by a thermocouple.
The heat of hydration of Portland cement and
Calcium Aluminate Cement are on the same order The second reaction is the hydration of the
at about 500 kJ/kg. Because Calcium Aluminate cement with water. During this reaction,
Cement releases this energy over a much shorter hydrates are formed through precipitation from
period of time, this reaction is easy to measure, solution. These hydrates grow in the liquid
even when the cement contents are low. portion of the castable, converting liquid to solid
and binding other materials in the castable
Certain deflocculated castables also exhibit a heat together. This causes the castable to gain
rise during initial flocculation, well bef ore mechanical strength.
hydration, marking the end of working time.
Because these measurements can be automated For this second reaction to begin, germination
of nuclei from the saturated solution must occur
with a thermocouple and a PC, the test is easy to
within the castable. After these nuclei are
set up and run.
formed, the hydration reaction begins and
Creating an exothermic profile on a neat cement proceeds as described by Le Chatelier’s cycle
paste gives information about the composition and (figure I).
reactivity of that cement and may be useful for QA
purposes.This paper will present practical olution olution saturated
Solution Solution
examples of the above-mentioned topics and unersaturateiwith
respect tocement
th with
res ect to respect
attempt to explain the reason for the occurrences.
Re sul t s a nd di sc u ssi on conc erni ng t he
repeatability and reproducibility of these tests will Wa ter
Sol i d hy dr at es

also be presented.
Pr ec ip i ta ti o n
of h ydra tes
1 Introduction
C ement
Both complex and simple castables utilizing
calcium aluminate cements (CAC) as the binder olution
Solution olution saturated
Solution saturate
undergo two visible reactions after water has been unersaturate with
respect tocement
to hrates
res ect to respect to hydrates
added. The first reaction is a flocculation reaction
and is noted by a lack of mobility of the castable
(end of working time) and/or a set by Vicat needle.
Fig I. The Le Chatelier cycle
This type of reaction can also be measured by the
Technical Paper
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This cycle is a continuous dissolution of CA ~ 10H -+ CAH10 (< 36°C)

anhydrous cement and precipitation of hydrates
2CA ~ 11 H -+ C2AH8 ~ AH3 (36-64°C)
and proceeds until all the anhydrous particles of
cement exposed to water within the castable have 3CA ~ 12H -+ C3AH6 ~ 2AH3 (>64°C)
been consumed. C12A7 ~ 51 H -+ 6C2AH8 ~ AH3 (very rapid)
3CA2 ~ 21 H -+ C3AH6 ~ 5AH3 (very slow)
The cement dissolution portion of the reaction is
exothermic in nature. During this reaction, Calcium aluminate cements currently on the
temperatures within the castable can range from market typically contain a mixture of soluble
barel y record abl e (< ~ 1° C abov e st art anhydrous phases, including C 1 2 A 7 , CA and
temperature) to temperatures in excess of 130°C CA2. Individually, these phases react at different
(266°F). The final temperature in the castable rates due to different solubilities. Once Le
depends on many things, including: Chatelier’s cycle begins and dissolution and
precipitation are occurring simultaneously, the
1. cement content (% by wt.) exothermic property of dissolution proceeds in
2. mineralogy of cement such a way as to generate a measurable
increase in temperature.
3. admixtures
4. size of cast object 2.1. Exothermic Profile of Simple Mortar
5. shape (surface area) of cast object
Figure II shows a typical thermal profile of a
6. start temperature of mix
70% A l 2 O 3 cement in a sand mortar (25%
7. temperature of surroundings cement, ISO 679 sand and 12.5% water). One
8. thermal conductivity of aggregate system plot is of the thermocouple reading, which is
9. thermal conductivity of the environment embedded inside the mortar during hydration,
and t h e ot her i s t he deri v ativ e of t hi s
temperature reading.
Confirmation of the timing of these reactions can
be measured by inserting a thermocouple into the
wet castable and measuring the temperature1, 2.
Temperature can easily be logged by a PC and 1 100
plotted vs. time to produce an exothermic profile C
2 A H

(EP) of the castable under investigation. When run 8 80 8

under standardized conditions, repeatable results C

3 A H

can be generated and strength gain can be 60

predicted for specific castable systems where a

correlation has been established. On certain 40 ____

deflocculated systems, an initial rise in 20 ____________________________________
temperature is sometimes observed which can 3 3 3 3
indicate the initial dissolution of cement and 210 240 270 300 330 360
usually signals the end of working time ites

2 Practice
Fig II. Exothermic heat profile for a 70% Alumina
Le Chatelier’s principle as applied to simple cement
calcium aluminate cement mortars produces
hydration reactions with the following equations
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This cement is composed predominantly of CA

and CA 2. The internal temperature recorded by 115
the thermocouple is constant at 20°C until 220 105
minutes when the first hydrates begin to form. Up 95
to 285 minutes we see the temperature increasing
up to about 38°C. In this region we can observe
the formation of CAH10. Stopping the reaction and
running XRD and DTA on the concrete have
confirmed this is the predominant hydrate phase 55
at this point during the reaction . From 285 to 315 45
minutes the temperature further increases up to 35
65°C. In this region we can observe the formation 25
of C 2 A H 8 and AH 3 . Af t er 315 m i nut es t he 15
temperature further increases up to 80°C. In this 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28
region the precipitation of C3AH6 and AH3 are
Time (Hours)
observed until 345 minutes when the reaction
begins to slow as the anhydrous phase is FigIII. Exothermic profile for a neat cement paste

Both the slope of the temperature profile and the Figure III shows no thermal activity (hydration)
derivative of that profile with respect to time can until about 11 hours, with a peak temperature
note these three regions. Not only can we confirm occurring at about 13 hours. In contrast, the
the onset of hydration and therefore strength gain, mortar peak temperature occurred at 5 1/2 hours.
but we can also derive some information about The reason for this slow activity in the neat
the hydrate phases that are being formed by the paste is the lack of germination sites for the
temperature inside the castable. nuclei to start the hydration reaction. Without
the heterogeneous nucleation sites provided by
2.2. Exothermic Profile of Neat Paste the normally present “other” castable raw
materials, like aggregates, fines, etc., the
It is interesting to now compare this mortar profile reaction must start from precipitates only.
to an exothermic profile generated with the same
70% alumina cement in a neat paste formulation.
Neat paste is a formulation of only cement and
water. In this case the water is added at 25% of
the weight of the cement.
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Example of CA laboratory prepared CA and the other to

laboratory prepared C12A7. In this extreme
ex am pl e, one can se e t hat t he i oni c
[Ca ] concentration of the two ionic species will be
significantly affected by the composition of the
anhydrous phase. As the mineralogy of the
anhydrous cement varies, so should the ratio of
- ions in solution.
[Al(OH)4 ]
It is for this reason that neat paste exothermic
profiles can be useful to gauge the variability of
the mineralogical composition of cement. In an
exothermic profile of neat paste, the time to
peak temperature is easy to read, as it is a very
Time sharp peak. Lafarge Calcium Aluminates has
reported that this time to peak value varies from
approximately 9 to 24 hours depending on the
Example of C A
12 7
reactivity of the cement. While this “time to peak
temperature” value does not correlate to normal
[Ca2+] setting and strength gain numbers, it has been
usef ul t o predi ct t he perf orm ance i n a
deflocculated castable system. Inter lab
repeatability studies have shown that on 10
specimens of the same sample, a standard
[Al(OH)4-] deviation of 0.2 hours is normal.

2.3. Exothermic Profile of Low Cement

Castable (LCC)

The exothermic profile produced by placing a

thermocouple into a low cement castable is
Time dependent on many things. Because other raw
materials and the environment can control the
Fig IV. Ionic concentration with time for different reactions generated by the cement, proper
CAC phases controls must be in place to create repeatable
results. The size of the sample and the
In this case, the hydration is controlled mainly by insulation around the sample can also affect
the mineralogical composition of the cement. these results. If the castable contains very little
cement, a larger sample will probably be
Cements that contain a higher proportion of required to generate enough heat to be
reactive phases, like C12A7, would create an ionic measured by this method.
solution higher in Ca2+ than that of CA or CA 2. It is
the ratio of Ca 2 + to Al(OH) 4 - in solution that The following exothermic profile (figure V) was
governs the rate of the formation of nuclei, gener at ed by a LCC wi t h t he f ol l owi ng
assuming other parameters being equal.Figure IV composition:
exemplifies this difference in ionic concentration
over time of two solutions; one exposed to
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other systems containing CAC, it is after this

80% peak that full mechanical strength is obtained.
Sintered Alumina Aggregates
In this system the exothermic profile can be
(6 mesh and finer)
especially useful as it can give an indication of
Reactive alumina 10% both the working time and the setting time of the
Fume silica 5% cast a bl e i n one aut om at ed t e st . Si nce
admixtures can move these two reactions
CA cement (70% alumina) 5% individually, this test can be useful to gauge the
Sodium tripolyphospate 0.03% use of different admixtures on a given system.
Fig. 4 The effect of ambient temperature on working
time and strength gain can also be studied with
LCC Exo Profile
this method by allowing the specimens to cure
in different environments.


27 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
Time (hours)
Temp (C)



23 43,0

0% 0,01%
0,02% 0,06%
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Time (h)

Fig. 5
Time (Hours)

Fig V. Exothermic profile of an LCC system 37,0

Upon inspection of this profile, two peaks are 35,0

evident. The first peak is believed to be caused by
a reaction of the phosphate and the silica fume,
complexing the dissolution of the CA cement 5,6,7. 33,0
This complexing blocks the normal dissolution of
the cement until the phosphate is consumed and 31,0
then releases the CA into solution. Laboratory Fig VI. Exothermic profilesof an Alumina Magnesia
investigations have shown that this first peak castable system with different additions of a
st ron gl y correl at e s t o t he worki ng t i m e of polyacrylate additive.
def locculated castables. It has al so been
observed when working with aged castables that T he abov e ex am pl e ( f igure VI) sho w s
the first peak can disappear or that both peaks exothermic profiles generated by a dose rate
can be significantly moved to the right, indicating scan of a polyacrylate additive applied to an
that reactions have been delayed or severely alumina-magnesia castable system. This
diminished. example was also chosen as it was run in a
35°C environment. Note that the 0.01% addition
The second peak in this profile shows the normal rate had no effect on the control and that the
hydration reaction that occurs with CAC. As with 0.02% addition rate only changed the amount of
heat released. In contrast, the higher dose rates
have clearly shown a delayed dissolution of the
Technical Paper
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cement, a retardation of the formation of nuclei

and hence the onset of hydration.

3 Conclusion 4 References
1. H. Fentiman, C. M. George, and R. G. J.
Exothermic profiling of hydraulic minerals and the Montgomery, “The Heat Evolution Test for
castable systems created from them can reveal Setting Time of Cements and
useful information about the reactions present in Castables”, New Developments in
these systems. In the laboratory, this method is Monolithic Refractories in Advances in
normally automated and if the environment is Ceramics 13 131-35 (1984).
stable, can produce results not generally subject 2. N. E. Bunt, Advanced Techniques for
to operator and equipment error. Only the Measuring Rheology of Cement-Based
thermocouples need to be calibrated. th
Refractories, 29 Annual Symposium on
Refracotires, St. Louis Missouri, March
This technique can be used as a research and 1993.
development tool to generate profiles of castables 3. K. L. Scriv ener, A. Capm as, Cal ci um
being optimized for admixture interaction. The Aluminate Cements; Chapter 13 in Lea’s
addition of an accelerator or retarder can effect Chemistry of Cement and Concrete, 4 ed.

significant changes in the exothermic peak times Edited by Peter C. Hewlett, John Wiley &
and temperatures. As the castable can easily be Sons, New York, NY, 1998.
stored in environments of different temperatures, 4. Hervé Fryda, Karen Scrivener, Gilles
studies could also be done on the effect of Chanvillard, Célinine Féron, Relevance of
temperature on the system under investigation. Laboratory Tests to Field Applications of
Calcium Aluminate Cement Concretes,
When designing experiments, one should keep in International Conference on Calcium
mind that the following variables can significantly Aluminate Cements, Edinburgh, Scotland,
affect the results of the profile: Size and shape of 2001.
specimen, thermal conductivity of specimen, 5. J.P. Bayoux, J.P. Letourneux, C.M. George,
starting temperature of the mix, temperature of the “Fume Silica and cement interactions parts
surroundings and the thermal conductivity of the 1-3”, Unitecr 89, Anaheim, CA, USA, 1989.
surrounding medium. 6. K. Jono, E. Maeda, K. Sorimochi, “Reaction
between Alumina cement and phosphate”,
Exothermic profiling could also be used as a Vol 50 No. 4, Taikatbutsu, Japan, 1998.
quality control tool to verify the setting time of 7. E. Maeda, K. Jono, “Adsorption of silica
manufactured castable, troubleshoot problem ont o t h e cem ent part i cl e surf ace i n
castables and to screen reactive raw materials for castables”, Vol 52 No. 3, Taikabutsu,
use in these systems. Japan, 2000.