Novel concrete chemistry achieved with low dose gamma radiation curing and resistance to neutron activation
T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f U t a h G r a d u a t e S c h o o l STATEMENT OF DISSERTATION APPROVAL The dissertation of Steven Robert Burnham has been approved by the following supervisory committee members: Tatjana Jevremovic , Chair ABSTRACT As much as 50% of ageing-related problems with concrete structures can be attributed to construction deficiencies at the time of placement. The most influential time affecting longevity of concrete structures is the curing phase, or commonly the initial
... 8 days following its placement. A novel advanced atomistic analysis of novel concrete chemistry is presented in this dissertation with the objective to improve concrete structural properties and its longevity. Based on experiments and computational models, this novel concrete chemistry is discussed in two cases: (a) concrete chemistry changes when exposed to low-dose gamma radiation in its early curing stage, thus improving its strength in a shorter period of time then curing for the conventional 28 days; (b) concrete chemistry is controlled by its atomistic components to assure strength is not reduced but that its activation due to long-term exposure to neutron flux in nuclear power plants is negligible. High dose gamma radiation is well documented as a degradation mechanism that decreases concrete's compressive strength; however, the effects of low-dose gamma radiation on the initial curing phase of concrete, having never been studied before, proved its compressive strength increases. Using a 137 Cs source, concrete samples were subjected to gamma radiation during the initial curing phase for seven, 14, and 28 days. The compressive strength after seven days is improved for gamma cured concrete by 24% and after 14 days by 76%. Concrete shows no improvement in compressive strength after 28 days of exposure to gamma radiation, showing that there is a threshold effect. Scanning Electron Microscopy is used to examine the microstructure of low-dose gamma radiation where no damage to its microstructure is found, showing no difference between gamma cured and conventionally cured concrete. Molecular dynamics modeling based on the MOPAC package is used to study how gamma radiation during the curing stage improves compressive strength of concrete. The modeling shows that when radiolysis occurs in freshly mixed concrete, the reactivity between key molecules responsible for bonding between cement and aggregate is enhanced due to improved reactivity at the molecular level. A new method is developed that successfully controls a concrete chemistry at the atomistic level by assuring its long-term exposure to neutron flux in nuclear power plants will not activate the dome wall to the level of low-level radioactive waste. This methodology is established to detect and select the level of trace elemental composition in concrete based on a low-flux neutron activation analysis (NAA). By carefully selecting aggregates that do not contain certain elements that activate to high concentrations after decades of concrete exposure to neutron flux, the end of life for concrete is improved by declassifying it as low-level radioactive waste. Directly, it improves economy of commissioning nuclear power plants to be built in near future and reducing important quantities of waste to be disposed at high costs. iv CONTENTS ABSTRACT .