Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Qingli Dai


The objective of this doctoral research is to investigate the internal frost damage due to crystallization pore pressure in porous cement-based materials by developing computational and experimental characterization tools. As an essential component of the U.S. infrastructure system, the durability of concrete has significant impact on maintenance costs. In cold climates, freeze-thaw damage is a major issue affecting the durability of concrete. The deleterious effects of the freeze-thaw cycle depend on the microscale characteristics of concrete such as the pore sizes and the pore distribution, as well as the environmental conditions. Recent theories attribute internal frost damage of concrete is caused by crystallization pore pressure in the cold environment. The pore structures have significant impact on freeze-thaw durability of cement/concrete samples. The scanning electron microscope (SEM) and transmission X-ray microscopy (TXM) techniques were applied to characterize freeze-thaw damage within pore structure. In the microscale pore system, the crystallization pressures at sub-cooling temperatures were calculated using interface energy balance with thermodynamic analysis. The multi-phase Extended Finite Element Modeling (XFEM) and bilinear Cohesive Zone Modeling (CZM) were developed to simulate the internal frost damage of heterogeneous cement-based material samples. The fracture simulation with these two techniques were validated by comparing the predicted fracture behavior with the captured damage from compact tension (CT) and single-edge notched beam (SEB) bending tests. The study applied the developed computational tools to simulate the internal frost damage caused by ice crystallization with the two dimensional (2-D) SEM and three dimensional (3-D) reconstructed SEM and TXM digital samples. The pore pressure calculated from thermodynamic analysis was input for model simulation. The 2-D and 3-D bilinear CZM predicted the crack initiation and propagation within cement paste microstructure. The favorably predicted crack paths in concrete/cement samples indicate the developed bilinear CZM techniques have the ability to capture crack nucleation and propagation in cement-based material samples with multiphase and associated interface. By comparing the computational prediction with the actual damaged samples, it also indicates that the ice crystallization pressure is the main mechanism for the internal frost damage in cementitious materials.