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Accepted Manuscript

Effect of fly ash particle size on thermal and mechanical properties of fly ash-
cement composites

Ayse Bicer

PII: S2451-9049(17)30521-8
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsep.2018.07.014
Reference: TSEP 208

To appear in: Thermal Science and Engineering Progress

Received Date: 28 December 2017

Revised Date: 24 July 2018
Accepted Date: 25 July 2018

Please cite this article as: A. Bicer, Effect of fly ash particle size on thermal and mechanical properties of fly ash-
cement composites, Thermal Science and Engineering Progress (2018), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsep.

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Department of chemical Engineering, Firat University, Elazig Turkey


In this study, fly ash was used in concrete and plaster in place of sand and the impact of
fly ash grain size on thermal and mechanical performance of composite material was
examined. Fly ash used in the experiments was received from Soma Thermal Power Station
and separated into the various grain size groups namely unsieved, >75x10-6 m, (45-75)x10-6 m
and <45x10-6 m. In all fly ash and cement mixtures, the weight percentages of fly ash were
accepted as 10, 30, 50, 70 and 90%. Cement IV/B (P) 32.5 R was used as the binding
material and 20 specimens were prepared according to the grain diameter and percentage of
fly ash.
Some tests were performed using the new products to find out their detailed properties
including density, thermal conductivity, compressive tensile strength, and elasticity module
and water absorption. It was found in the experiments that i) as the grain size diameter
decreased, ash density increased 16.12%, and porous structure was replaced by full-grain ash
and its color turned to light brown; ii) as the ash addition ratio increased 10-90% in fly ash
cement mixtures, thermal conductivity coefficient and compressive strength values decreased
in the rates of 14.47-24.52% and 1.25-9.4% respectively; iii) concrete or plaster turned into
an insulator due to fly ash.
Keywords: Fly ash, light concrete, insulation plaster, waste management

Ayse Bıcer, Phone: +90-424-2370000/5504, Fax: +90-424-2415526

E-mail: abicer@firat.edu.tr

Porosity, (%)
fly ash : Density of fly ash, (g/cm3)
fly ash matrix : Density of fly ash with 0 % porosity ratio (after milling and so causing no
porosity), (g/cm3)
cement : Density of cement, (g/cm3)
cement matrix : Density of cement with 0 % porosity ratio, (g/cm3)
Wk : Dry weight of sample, (g)
Wd : Wet weight of sample, (g)
Z : Fly ash ratio, (%)
(1-Z) : Cement ratio, (%)


Nearly 15x106 tons of fly ash is generated annually in Turkey at thermal power plants.
One of these factories is Soma Power Plant. Storage of fly ash or disposal from the facility is
one of the significant problems concerned with power plants. Hence, waste fly ashes’
negative effects on the environment should be assessed. Fly ashes are classified as artificial
pozzolanic. Puzzolanic character can be described as a non-bonding material to gain the
capacity to be bonding only when mixed with water. The studies accelerated because fly ash
of appropriate amounts was used within concrete in place of concrete. Numerous studies were
conducted on fly ash up until today. Previous researches shown that fly ash is a potential source of
construction material [1].
These studies were summarized in two groups. In the first group, fly ash was assessed as
an additive material in cement. Karaşin and Doğruyol [2], reported that there was no change
in strength values of concrete when 20% fly ash was added in concrete. The second group
consist of studies conducted on partial or complete use of fly ash within the concrete instead
of conventional aggregate. This study is included in the second group of studies. Some of the
studies that were carried out for this group are summarized as follows:
Silva and Andrade [3], researched the mechanical properties of concretes produced with
recycled coarse aggregate within the rates of 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% instead of natural
aggregate, and taking the water/cement rate as 0.40, 0.45, 0.50, 0.55 and 0.65 in their studies.
Golewski [4], Sunayana and Barai [5], in the studies that were carried out on an individual
basis, produced samples using ash at the rates of 20% and 30% instead of natural aggregate,
in order to minimize the negative impacts of coal fly ash on nature and to decrease the
consumption of cement. The results of mechanical tests applied on the samples displayed
comparable results with the natural aggregated concrete. In similar studies, Rafieizonooz et al
[6 ], identified the mechanical characteristics of samples porduced with fly ash at the rates of
0, 20, 50 and 100% by Siddique [7], 10%, 20%, 30%, 40% and 50% by Dan [8] and 10%,
30% instead of natural sand. Aydın and Arel [9], as well as Yu et al [10] carried out
researches on the physical and mechanical properties of fly ash additive cement in high ratios
to reduce the material costs and for using them in low strength concrete practices, in their
studies that were carried out on an individual basis. Babu at al [11], Thirumal and Harish [12],
Rivera at al [13] and Duran [14], also carried out researches on the mechanical properties of
samples produced by partly fly ash instead of sand as aggregate in the concrete within the
scope of their individual studies. Li et al [15], proved that the selective dissolution method
and thermal analysis method can be used to measure the fly ash content within fly ash
additive solidified concrete.
As differing from these studies, Yazıcı and Arel added fly ash to concrete in the ratios of
5%, 10%, and 15% and investigated the effect of fly ash fineness on the mechanical
properties of concrete [16]. Saumya et al studied the effect of fly ash and vegetable oils on
mechanical properties of concrete, which consisted of fly ash, vegetable oil and PVC plastic
In this study, small pores were generated in the structure of ash as a result of coal
burning a t high temperatures. By using this feature of thermal power station, it was
thought that low density construction material could be produced. In order to determine the
effect of fly ash grain diameter on the properties of new materials, ash was divided into four
groups namely unsieved ash, and ashes of grain diameters of <45x10-6 m, (45-75)x10-6 m and
>75x10-6 m. Thermal and mechanical properties of 20 different samples were determined.
In this study, small pores were generated in the structure of ash as a result of coal
burning a t high temperatures. By using this feature of thermal power station, it was
thought that low density construction material could be produced. In order to determine the
effect of fly ash grain diameter on the properties of new materials, ash was divided into four
groups namely unsieved ash, and ashes of grain diameters of <45x10-6 m, (45-75)x10-6 m
and >75x10-6 m. Thermal and mechanical properties of 20 different samples were

2.1. Materials

Fly ash: Sulpho-calsic fly ash that was produced by burning lignite coal at Soma Power Plant
in Kütahya City, Turkey was used in this study. Fly ash had an amorphous structure (glassy),
had SiO2+Al2O3+Fe2O3=82.69 % ratio and fulfilled the conditions of ASTM C-350 and TS
639 standards stating that SiO2+Al2O3+Fe2O3 should be minimum 70%. Fly ash’s color is
gray, darker than cement’s color, and it is very fine grained and is a soft material sensible
when touched by hand. The fineness of ash is generally between 1x10 -6 m - 200x10-6 m. The
density values of fly ash are shown in Fig. 1. Density values of fly ashes and cements are
shown in Table 1. As seen in microscope, it has a structure with various forms and sizes. It is
generally globe-like, transparent, sometimes light in color, partially black, and its grains are
light brunette red colored (Fig.2). Its tone depends on the used coal and its burning
characteristics. Depending on the burning properties, its principal components are silica,
aluminum and iron oxide. Fly ash has a pozzolanic character. The particle distribution of fly
ash is 36.4% (<45x10-6 m), 39.3% ((45-75)x10-6 m) and 24.3% (>75x10-6 m) by weight
according to their grain diameters.
Cement: CEM IV/B(P)32.5 R pozzolanic cement was used to produce concrete.
The chemical component of fly ash and cement used in this study and the details of mix
proportion are given respectively in Table 2. The water and cement + fly ash ratio (W/(C+F))
is set as 0.5

2.2. Testing methods

The prepared mortars were molded to 100x100x100 mm formworks for mechanical

tests and they were molded to 20x60x150 mm formworks for thermal tests and they were left
to dry for standard period of 28 days at room temperature. 20 specimens were prepared
depending on the grain diameter and percentage of fly ash. At the end of the drying period,
the samples were packed and stored until the measurement time.
Thermal conductivity was measured by using Isomet 2104 unit which applies hot wire
method according to DIN 51046 standards. Its range and sensitivity were 0.02-10 W/mK and
± 5 % of the scale respectively [18, 19]. Measurements were taken for all samples at 3
different points at room temperature (22-25oC). Thermal conductivity values were determined
by calculating arithmetic averages of that measurement.
Compressive strength tests were performed on the samples according to ASTM C 109-80

standard [20].

Water absorption test is important to determine the suitability of a material to freezing

hazard. The critical amount of moisture is 30% of the total dry-volume and below this
volume, the material doesn't deform when frozen [18, 19]. The experiments were performed
according to the BS 812 Part 2 standard. Dry and wet weights of the samples need to be
known for water absorption ratio estimation. The samples were left at the drying room at
40oC of temperature for 12 hours and subsequently they were weighted by using a sensitive
scale and their dry weights were measured. Then, water was added in the test cup and the
samples were soaked there for 15 minutes as 1/3, 2/3 and the entire of their bodies to remain
in water. Subsequently, they were removed from the water, wiped with a piece of rag,
weighted and their wet weights were measured. The water absorption values were calculated
by Eq. (1) and they are shown in Table 3.

Water absorption ratio={[Wd-Wk]/Wk}.100 (1)

The purpose of drying ratio test was to determine respiration abilities of the samples.

After the samples were soaked in water for 48 hours, they were removed, wiped with a piece

of wet rag and dried naturally at 22oC room temperature. The drying ratio values were

calculated by Eq. (2). Drying occurs by evaporation from the material surface; water moves

from the deep of the material through capillary canals, in other words, moisture is expelled

from the body through steam permeability resistance and then drying occurs.

Drying ratio={[Wd-Wk]/Wd}.100 (2)

Porosity ( is defined by Eq (3), [18].


Following coal burning, fly ashes with little beads of different sizes emerge. As grain
size shrinks, full beads replace porous beads and the density increases (Table 1). The dry
densities of samples cured for 28 days are given in Table 3. The results show that there was a
decrease in dry density as the fly ash aggregate content increased. In non-sieved fly ash
samples, dry density value of mixtures containing 10% fly ash aggregate decreased from
1.624 g/ cm3 to and dry density value of mixtures containing 90% fly ash aggregate decreased
from 1.270 g/cm3. The reduction rate was 21.79% (Fig. 3). This is due to the porous
structure of fly ash. As the grain diameter of fly ash was reduced density values
increased. In fine grain sized samples, if most of the porous samples were placed with non-
porous grains, fly ash samples’ densities got higher. Comparing the densities of fly ash
samples with grain sizes >75x10-6 m and densities of the unsieved samples showed that while
fly ash densities increased in rate of 10-90%, sample densities were reduced in rates of 6.34-
Thermal insulation properties of composite specimens were determined by thermal
conductivity test. Thermal conductivity values decreased as fly ash ratio increased (Fig. 4-a).
Because interior parts of micro structured pores were full of gases that were
generated from burning and the average thermal conductivity coefficient of inert
gases is almost 0.0214 W/mK. The minimum thermal conductivity coefficient
measured in 90% fly ash samples of grain size >75x10-6 mm ( sa mp le 20) was 0. 2 4 0
W/ mK. I n uns ie ved fly as h sa mp les , t he r at io o f fly as h incr eased fr o m 10%
to 90% and thermal conductivity coefficient values dropped to 31.32%. There’s a
strong relationship between density and thermal conductivity Fig 4-b). As density dwindles,
porous fly particles grow and thermal conductivity of samples dwindles even more.

Because of the pozzolanic characteristics of fly ashes, when they are mixed with water
without using any bonding material they gain bonding characteristics. Mortars prepared in
this way can be used as sub-roof isolation plaster or they can be used as intermediate backfill
materials inn sandwich walls. In such plaster forms, thermal conductivity coefficient is 0.220-
0.230 W/mK, and in dust forms and if they are used as an intermediate back fill material, it
was detected empirically that the value was 0.140 W/mK.
Figure 5 shows that compressive strengths of ash-free samples (sample with 0% fly ash)
and samples with 10% fly ash additives are nearly equal. In other words, addit io n o f fl y
ash t o ceme nt in r at e o f 10% mea ns a saving fr o m t he ce me nt in r at e o f
10%. As lo ng as t he fly as h r at e in t he sa mp les incr ease d co mpr ess ive
st r engt hs successive l y in t he uns ieved gr o up , t he gro up wit h a gr ain s ize o f
<45x10-6 m, (45-75)x10-6 m and the group with a g r ain s ize o f >75x10-6 m are reduced in
rate of 69. 03 %, 62. 08% , 74.17 % and 81. 35% . I n fly as h aggr egat ed mat er ia ls,
it is no t int ended t o o bt ain lo wer st r engt h va lues, wher e t he fly a sh r at e
incr eases. Ho wever, t he dens it y and t her ma l co nduct ivit y co effic ie nt ar e
r educed despit e t his negat iv e char act er ist ic o f t he mat er ia l. T her e fo r e, t he
place w her e t he produced samp les ar e go ing t o be used can be clearly identified.
Based on these results, it can be recommended that concretes with fly ash (excluding
10% fly ash) must not be used in columns and beams of buildings. Nevertheless, these low
density concretes are designated as panel walls, brick, concrete briquettes, inner and outer
plaster, concrete partition elements, and insulation material.
The results of water absorption of different mixtures are shown in Figure 6. The water
absorption increased with the increased fly ash aggregate ratio. Whereas water absorption
ratio of the samples, which have fly ash rates ranging between 10 and 30%, are lower than
the critical value (30%), the other samples have a value higher than the critical value.
Hence, (50-90) % fly ash concrete samples must not be used in places having direct contact
with water. They must not also be used against inner wall elements where (briquette or
brick) inner plaster, isolation plaster are used as low density construction materials.
Table 3 shows that the drying ratios of the samples increased as fly ash ratio
increased. The loss of water, which occurs towards the material surface through capillary
canals, shows the ability to respire, albeit it is negligible.
Considering the adherence experience of the prepared samples on the wall, when
construction materials are used such as plaster mortars, brick, briquettes, it was detected that
a flat and smooth surface was obtained. Within the processing experiments of fly ash
samples, it was detected that it can be cut through by a saw in a proper way, it can be drilled
with a drilling machine, a channel through it can be opened, and all sorts of dyes and wall
papers shall be applied to such mortars without taking any precautions (Fig 7).

This manuscript was prepared to find out the influence of fly ash particle size on thermal and
mechanical properties of fly ash cement composites. The following conclusions can be drawn
from this experimental study:
 Removal of fly ashes from power plants is one of the significant problems of power
plants. In this study, it is recommended that fly ash is used along with cement in concrete and
plaster applications. Making use of fly ashes and storage and moving these waste materials
from power plants can solve the undesired effects and problems. Moreover, significant energy
savings can be achieved by using construction materials, which are obtained by using fly ash
and which have a low thermal conductivity coefficient, in buildings.
 The usage area and purposes of fly ash cement composites can be determined by
studying the effect of fly ash grain diameter on some properties of concrete. For example, the
use of fly ashes with large grains for isolation purpose and the use of fly ashes with small
grains in concretes that require strength quality, etc.
 It is possible to use less cement (10%) in comparison to ordinary concrete or plasters
in concrete or plasters consisting of fly ash owing to their puzzolanic properties. Since
concrete or plaster gains an insulation property owing to fly ash, heating costs would be lower
in buildings. It is hoped that the results of this study will help the economy of the state.
 In samples with fly ash ratios up to 30%, water suction ratios remain below the critical
value. Up to this ratio, fly ash concrete or plaster must be used at locations having direct
contact with water without the risk of freezing.
 The inner surface plasters produced by using fly ash have identical properties as the
ordinary plasters such as respiration capability, nailing, boring, cutting, sticking on the wall,
giving a smooth surface and painting.
The results of the present study have shown that fly ash can be used as sand-substitution
in concrete and cement composites and simultaneously solve the environmental problem by
recycling waste fly ash.


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Figure 1. Density values distribution of fly ash

Figure 2. View of samples under microscope

Figure 3. Change of the density according to fly ash ratio

Figure 4. Reduction in thermal conductivity according to

a) fly ash ratio b) density

Figure 5. Reduction in compressive strength according to fly ash ratio

Figure 6. Water absorption ratio of samples versus fly ash percentages

Figure 7. Samples can be different types of dyes can be applied

a) drilling, b) silicone rubber coating and oil painting


Figure 1

Cement + ash

Figure 2
Figure 3

Figure 4
Figure 5
Figure 6

Figure 7

Table 1 Density values of fly ashes and cement (g/cm3)

Table 2 Chemical composition of the components (%)

Table 3. Thermal and mechanical properties of samples


Table 1
unsieved >75x10-6 m (45-75)x10-6 m <45x10-6 m
Fly ash 2.03 1.94 2.29 2.42
Cement 3.10
Table 2
Chemical characteristics Fly ash Cement
SiO2 51.25 18.65
Al2O3 26.15 6.15
Fe2O3 5.29 3.25
CaO 7.85 57.71
MgO 1.66 2.34
SO3 0.23 2.91
K2O 1.3 0.7
TiO2 0.83 --
LiO2 0.13 --
Sodium oxide (Na2O) 0.67 --
Loss on ignition (L0I) 3.32 2.84
Not available -- 6.08
Total 100.4 100.03
Table 3
Article Fly ash Density Porosity Thermal Compre. Water Drying
Code diameter ratio (g/cm3) (%) conductivity strength absorption ratio
(x10-6 m) (%) (W/m K) (MPa) (%) (%)
1 Unsieved 10 1.624 4.18 0.463 23.90 24.07 8.16
2 “ 30 1.558 11.09 0.442 20.40 26.39 8.52
3 “ 50 1.461 17.07 0.390 16.10 31.17 8.87
4 “ 70 1.355 23.02 0.349 11.40 32.09 9.13
5 “ 90 1.270 26.13 0.318 7.4 35.70 9.60
6 <45 10 1.661 3.53 0.475 24.00 23.58 8.90
7 “ 30 1.583 7.24 0.457 21.15 24.64 9.17
8 “ 50 1.524 11.51 0.420 17.15 30.56 9.45
9 “ 70 1.396 15.41 0.383 12.66 31.02 9.88
10 “ 90 1.302 18.98 0.362 9.10 33.71 10.14
11 45-75 10 1.581 4.32 0.428 23.70 25.78 8.61
12 “ 30 1.528 9.34 0.407 20.05 28,89 8.95
13 “ 50 1.433 14.36 0.350 15.05 31.78 9.05
14 “ 70 1.342 19.38 0.318 10.08 32.66 9.11
15 “ 90 1.238 23.62 0.282 6.12 34.08 9.88
16 >75 10 1.521 5.41 0.396 23.60 27.45 8.03
17 “ 30 1.489 13.03 0.371 19.15 29,10 8.15
18 “ 50 1.375 19.12 0.321 14.10 33.06 8.29
19 “ 70 1.305 25.17 0.286 8.50 34,78 9.0.
20 “ 90 1.207 29.03 0.240 4.40 36.55 9.28

 New lightweight concrete was produced by using fly ash instead of natural sand

 Thermal and mechanical properties of these materials have been determined

 The lightweight materials can be used as partition walls, floorings, ceiling concretes,

bricks and plaster in building.

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