Design of pH-responsive SAP polymer for pore solution chemistry regulation and crack sealing in cementitious materials

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Department of Biomedical Engineering; Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


The crack development is considered to be one of the most severe threats to the durability of concrete infrastructure. This study aims to enhance the durability performance of cementitious material with the pH-responsive Superabsorbent Polymer (SAP). The SAP was synthesized with acrylic acid (AA)-methyl acrylate (MA) precursors, and three type samples with different crosslinking levels were prepared. The examination on the pH sensitivity indicated that the swelling capacity of the prepared SAP would first increase and then decrease with solution alkalinity, and the peak swelling potential was achieved around pH value of 12 for all the three type SAP with solution/gel mass ratio of 500. Further examination indicated the alkalinity of the buffer solution was reduced during the adsorption test, which can be caused by the hydrolysis of the amide groups and the crosslinker. Besides that, it was also found the solution/gel ratio and the Ca(OH)2 content could affect the swelling potential of the SAP. After that, the performance tests were conducted for the evaluation of concrete with SAP. A wax-coating protocol for the SAP was designed by using the hot-water method to prevent its swelling during mixing process. It was found that the strength reduction for samples with wax-coated SAP was insignificant compared to that of the control samples. Furthermore, durability tests supported the wax-shell could be broken by the crack propagation in concrete. And further experimental studies are needed to optimize the wax-size and shell thickness for enhanced self-sealing efficiency.

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© 2020 Elsevier Ltd. Publisher’s version of record:

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Composites Part B: Engineering