Case Studies in Construction Materials - Eden Innovations

Case Studies in Construction Materials - Eden Innovations
Case Studies in Construction Materials xxx (2018) xxx–xxx

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Case study

Carbon nano-tube as water reducer in CDOT Class E 12 hr
concrete mix
Malay Mayank Patel, Caroline M. Clevenger*, Moatassem Abdallah
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Colorado Denver, Campus Box 113, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, Colorado, 80217, United States

A R T I C L E I N F O                                 A B S T R A C T

Article history:                                      To address maintenance and durability issues for concrete pavement, the City and County
Received 31 May 2018                                  of Denver explored the use of carbon nano-tube admixtures. This research documents the
Received in revised form 2 October 2018               hardened and fresh properties of two mix designs that use carbon nano-tube admixture as
Accepted 5 October 2018
                                                      a water reducer. The authors performed compressive strength, slump and air-entrainment
                                                      tests. Results indicate that the 3 gallon-per-yard (GPY) (14.85 l/m3) mix provides both the
Keywords:                                             highest slump and the highest compressive strength, while meeting the air-entrainment
Carbon nano-tubes
                                                      specifications for Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Class E 12 h Concrete Mix.
Concrete mix design
                                                      While additional testing is recommended to evaluate long-term maintenance impacts,
Concrete pavement                                     initial results are promising and suggest that adoption of a 3 GPY (14.85 l/m3) mix may be a
                                                      viable alternative for CDOT. The contribution of this research is to document preliminary
                                                      laboratory and in-situ testing of carbon nano-tube admixtures in concrete pavement mix
                                                      © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC
                                                                          BY-NC-ND license (

1. Introduction

   The Street Maintenance Department of City and County of Denver faces numerous maintenance issues involving large
cracks in their concrete pavement due primarily to 1) heavy load from running vehicles, 2) the use of de-icing salts like
magnesium chloride (MgCl2), and 3) possible additional effect of freeze-thaw cycles. In fall of 2016, as a potential
maintenance improvement, the City and County of Denver decided to test the use of carbon nano-tube admixture known as
“EdenCrete” as a partial water replacement in their standard mix design because its ability to reduce the permeability of
concrete. The selected location for the concrete testing using various mix proportions was East Speer Boulevard near
intersection of 6th Avenue and Lincoln Street as shown in Fig. 1. Various tests were conducted to assess the performance and
workability of the “EdenCrete” admixture to inform the decision of whether or not to use this admixture for future concrete
pavement construction; and if so, what proportion of admixture is the best.
   Carbon nano-tubes are sub microscopic cylinders of carbon that are roughly 1550 nm in diameter and longer than
20 mm in length [1]. Carbon nano-tubes are very light with a mass density of 1.6 g/cm3, and have unusual thermal,
electrical and mechanical properties. They are also very strong and can provide 100–300 more tensile strength than various
steel types and are up to 30 times stronger than kevlar. When used in concrete, Carbon nano-tubes create enhanced bonds
between cement paste and aggregate, which results in greater compressive strength and pull-out capacity for the concrete
since the aggregate may break or fail before the concrete itself [2]. Carbon nano-tube admixture has been tested and

  * Corresponding author.
    E-mail addresses: (M.M. Patel), (C.M. Clevenger),
(M. Abdallah).
2214-5095/© 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
Case Studies in Construction Materials - Eden Innovations
2                                   M.M. Patel et al. / Case Studies in Construction Materials xxx (2018) e00207

         Fig. 1. Site location and condition of concrete pavement to be replaced by City and County of Denver Maintenance Department.

approved for use by the Georgia Department of Transportation for construction and maintenance projects in Class 24-Hour
accelerated strength concrete mix applications and Class B concrete applications [3].
   Concrete mix design specified as CDOT Class E 12 h (referred as “reference mix” for this research), is currently used for
paving streets in Denver, Colorado by the City and County of Denver. This research documents and analyses the impact of
partially replacing water by liquid-state carbon nano-tube admixture on the City’s reference mix design. Specifically, this
research studies the effect of carbon nano-tube admixture on the hardened properties of concrete by performing
compressive strength test and checks the fresh properties of the concrete by performing slump and air-entrainment tests.
While cheaper water reducing admixture alternatives may be available, the City and County of Denver was primarily
interested in testing carbon nano-tube as an admixture to help to reduce road-way maintenance due to its lower
permeability, reduced shrinkage and increased resistance to freeze-thaw. Two different proportions were tested against
reference mix. 2 GPY (9.9 l/m3) mix describes a mix with 2 GPY (9.9 l/m3) of carbon nano-tube admixture replacing 2 GPY
(9.9 l/m3) of water in reference mix, and the 3 GPY (14.85 l/m3) mix describes a mix with 3 GPY (14.85 l/m3) of carbon nano-
tube admixture replacing 3 GYP (14.85 l/m3) of water from reference mix.

2. Literature review

    Significant research exists regarding the replacement of various components of concrete mix design [4]. Specifically, all
major components including cement, coarse aggregate, fine aggregate and water replacements have been studied. The
following is summary of the relevant research on concrete component replacement by suitable materials. Such studies
generally focus on evaluating the impact of concrete replacement on the mix’s compressive strength, workability or both.
They less frequently address issues related to placement, durability, and maintenance of specific concrete mix designs.
    The most highly replaced component of a concrete mix is cement, since it is the most expensive component of
conventional concrete as well as the one with the largest negative environmental impact. Studies to date have focused on the
use of different materials as a cement replacement. The most successful partial replacement of cement is fly ash and is widely
acceptable as major component of green concrete and in variety of concrete structures [5–13]. Attempts have also been made
to partially replace cement with stone waste [14] and the outcomes suggests that despite the reductions in compressive
strength, cost savings are possible up to 20% replacement of cement. A similar trend had been noted for replacement of
cement by ground waste brick [15] and for marble dust and crushed brick [16]. The experiment on marble powder and silica
fume as partial replacement for cement mortar shows positive result for increase in compressive strength [17]. Country
specific studies have also led to interesting results [18]. Finally, detailed study of replacement of cement by ceramic powder
has been performed with emphasis on cost analysis [19].
    Aggregate usage is higher than cement in terms of quantity and volume in concrete. Many researchers have focused on
partially replacing fine and coarse aggregates with locally produced industrial wastes. For example, a study on rubber,
Jarosite and sandstone aggregates [20] was carried out to utilize locally produced wastes into concrete industry. Partial
replacement of fine and coarse aggregates with e-plastic waste [21] and waste glass [22] produced interesting results for
compressive strength and workability of concrete mix. 30% replacement of sand by quarry dust shows increase in
compressive strength and workability of concrete mix [23]. Coarse aggregate can be partially replaced by crushed ceramic
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tile which is waste product in ceramic industry possessing very similar physical and non-reactive chemical properties like
coarse aggregate [24].
    Water is one of the main components in concrete mix and potable water is needed in abundant quantity for the hydration
process. Studies have been performed to use the slurry water to replace fresh water in concrete mixes. Results suggest that
the use of slurry water yields higher slump with only a minor reduction in compressive strength compared to a significant
reduction in use of fresh water [25]. As sea water is available in enormous quantity, researchers have carried out experiments
to replace fresh water by sea water and found that concrete produced and cured using sea water shows higher compressive
strength than fresh water. However, accelerated corrosion of steel members is a drawback [26]. Finally, magnetized water
with partial replacement of cement by copper slag shows 4–18% of increase in compressive strength and up to 50% increase
in workability [27].
    Potential replacement materials from existing literature are summarized in Table 1 according to the concrete component
they replace.
    Although significant research has been performed to date on replacement of concrete components, little to no research
exists studying carbon nano-tube mixture as a replacement for water. This research is intended to address this gap by
studying the compressive strength and workability of carbon nano-tube mixture to demonstrate that it is a viable alternative
with possible maintenance and durability benefits.
    The practice of using of carbon nano-tubes as an admixture has been explored by the concrete industry since 2011 [28].
Initial studies focus on the mechanical properties of carbon nano-tube to insure compatibility with concrete ingredients.
Previously, tests were conducted in the laboratory on concrete or mortar samples having carbon nano-tubes in small
quantities and researchers found increases in flexural strength [28–30]. Recent studies and experiments for carbon nano-
tubes also show increases in abrasion resistance, flexural strength, tensile strength and compressive strength whereas
reduction in permeability and shrinkage, when using carbon nano-tube as an admixture [2].

3. Research methodology

    Mix design used for this test is CDOT Class E 12 h mix, which has 4500 PSI (31.03 MPa) as a target mean strength. Mountain
cement Type I/II is used in this mix design, which is ordinary Portland cement with moderate sulphate resistance. Table 2
shows the details of this mix design.
    Total quantity of water for this mix design is 263 lbs (119.3 kg) which is equivalent to 31.5 gallons (119.2 l) of water. For the
2 GPY (9.9 l/m3) mix, 2 gallons of water is replaced from this mix design using carbon nano-tube admixture which
constitutes approximately 6.35% of total water content in the concrete. For 3 GPY (14.85 l/m3) mix, 3 gallons (11.4 l) of water
is replaced from this mix design using carbon nano-tube admixture which constitutes approximately 9.52% of total water
content in the concrete. While the precise composition of Edencrete’s carbon nano-tube admixture is proprietary, the
company provides the following technical data sheet [31]. Slump tests, air entrainment tests were performed in the field,
while compressive strength tests were performed on the samples after 7 and 28 days of curing period. Fig. 2 is the flow-chart
of the research process.

                        Table 1
                        Summary from literature review.

                         Concrete Component                               Studied Replacement Materials
                         Cement                                              Fly Ash [5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13]
                                                                             Ceramic Powder or Ceramic Waste [19,24]
                                                                             Marble Powder or Marble Dust [16]
                                                                             Grounded Waste Brick [15]
                                                                             Iranian Industrial Waste [18]
                                                                             Silica Fumes [17]
                                                                             Copper Slag [27]
                                                                             Grounded Stone Waste [14]

                         Coarse Aggregate                                    Rubber [20]
                                                                             Jarosite [20]
                                                                             E-plastic Waste [21]
                                                                             Waste Glass [22]

                         Fine Aggregate                                      Sandstone [20]
                                                                             Ceramic Waste [19,24]
                                                                             Quarry Dust [14,23]
                                                                             Marble Dust [16]
                                                                             Waste Glass Powder [22]

                         Water                                             Slurry Water [25]
                                                                           Magnetized water [27]
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Table 2
Mix design of CDOT Class E 12 h mix (reference mix).

    Material            Source                   Description                       ASTM          Spec. Gravity             Oz/cwt   Weight (lb)
    Course Aggregate    Aggregate Industries     Aggregate Industries              C-33          2.64                               1690
                                                 Morrison 57/67
    Sand                Aggregate Industries     Aggregate Industries              C-33          2.62                               1225
                                                 Platte Valley Sand
    Cement              Mountain Cement          Mountain Cement Type I/II         C150          3.15                               600
    Air Entrainer       BASF                     MB-AE 90                          C 260         1.00                      0.40     0.2
    Type C              BASF                     Pozzolith NC534                   C 494         1.00                      30.00    14.7
    Water Reducer       BASF                     MASTER GLENIUM 7920               ASTM C        1.08                               2.2
    Class F Fly Ash     Boral                    Boral Class F Craig                             2.225                              150
                                                 Water                             C-94          1.00                               263
                                                                                                                           Total    3945
    Specified F’c:                                4500                              PSI
    Specified Slump:                              3.00 To 6.00                      In.           Designed Unit Weight:     144.0    lbs./cu.ft.
    Specified Air:                                4.00 To 8.00                      %             Designed W/C + P Ratio:   0.35
    Designed Air:                                5.0                               %             Designed Volume:          27.45    cu.ft.

   The samples for reference mix, 2 GPY (9.9 l/m3) mix and 3 GPY (14.85 l/m3) mix were taken from construction site at 6th
Ave and Lincoln Street in Denver, Colorado on 11th and 12th of September 2017. Cylinder molds having 400 diameter and 800
height were used to collect the samples. ASTM C-39 Standards were used to test for the compressive strength of cylindrical
concrete specimens. After allowing 24 h of setting time on site, samples were transported to Civil Engineering Laboratory at
University of Colorado, Denver. Concrete cylinders were taken out from molds and placed in a water tank in a fully
submerged position, and maintained for 28 days of curing period. Water temperature was maintained around standard room
temperature, which was 73.4-degree Fahrenheit (23-degree Celsius). A calibrated universal loading machine was used to
obtain the compressive strength of specimen cylinders in “lbs” unit. Cylindrical concrete specimens had 400 (10.16 cm)
diameter r = 200 (5.08 cm) and 800 (20.32 cm) height. Thus, obtained results in lbs unit were converted into PSI (pound per
square inch) by loadprin2 lbs.
   ASTM C-143 procedures were followed to meet the standards and performed in the field for the slump test. ASTM C-173
procedures were followed to meet the standards and performed in the field to test air-entrainment.

4. Results and discussion

   Table 3 is a summary of the results obtained from the slump, air entrainment, and compressive strength tests as well as
the weight of each concrete specimen tested after 7 day and 28 day curing periods.

                                                  Fig. 2. Steps of water reducing mix design study.
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Table 3
Results for CDOT Class E 12 h Mix with carbon nano-tube replacements.

 Water Replacement (GPY)    Slump         Air               Curing          Compressive Strength        Average Compressive Strength   Weight (lbs)
                            (inches)      Entrainment       Period          (PSI)                       (PSI)
 Reference                  6.25      5%                    7               6264                        6100                           8.49
   0                        (159 mm)                                       (43.18 MPa)                 (42.06 MPa)                    (3.85 kg)
   (0 %)                                                                    5901                                                       8.42
                                                                            (40.69 MPa)                                                (3.82 kg)
                                                            28              6320                        6400                           8.6
                                                                            (43.57 MPa)                 (44.13 MPa)                    (3.9 kg)
                                                                            6426                                                       8.55
                                                                            (44.31 MPa)                                                (3.87 kg)
                                                                            6374                                                       8.5
                                                                            (43.95 MPa)                                                (3.86 kg)
 2                          7.75      6%                    7               7369                        7300                           8.52
     (9.9 l/m3)             (197 mm)                                       (50.81 MPa)                 (50.33 MPa)                    (3.86 kg)
     (6.35 %)                                                               7224                                                       8.59
                                                                            (49.81 MPa)                                                (3.86 kg)
                                                            28              7157                        7150                           8.6
                                                                            (49.35 MPa)                 (49.30 MPa)                    (3.90 kg)
                                                                            7244                                                       8.6
                                                                            (49.95 MPa)                                                (3.90 kg)
                                                                            7068                                                       8.6
                                                                            (48.73 MPa)                                                (3.90 kg)
 3                          9.5       5.5%                  7               6356                        6650                           8.44
     (14.85 l/m3)           (241 mm)                                       (43.82 MPa)                 (45.85 MPa)                    (3.83 kg)
     (9.52 %)                                                               6886                                                       8.5
                                                                            (47.48 MPa)                                                (3.86 kg)
                                                            28              8280                        8150                           8.6
                                                                            (57.09 MPa)                 (56.19 MPa)                    (3.90 kg)
                                                                            8274                                                       8.6
                                                                            (57.05 MPa)                                                (3.90 kg)
                                                                            7898                                                       8.65
                                                                            (54.45 MPa)                                                (3.92 kg)

     Results as summarized in Table 3 show that entrainment and compressive strength for both the 2 GYP (9.9 l/m3) and 3
GYP (14.85 l/m3) mix designs meet or exceed mix design specifications for CDOT Class E 12 h mix (Table 2). Slump test results
for both 2 GYP (9.9 l/m3) and 3 GYP (14.85 l/m3) mix designs are outside (greater than) the 3–6 in.(7.62–15.24 cm.) tolerance
specified. However, this is not problematic and these results are further discussed below.
     The average compressive strength for CDOT Class E 12 h Mix for reference mix, 2 GPY (9.9 l/m3) mix and 3 GPY (14.85 l/
m3) mix samples after both 7 and 28 days of curing is shown in Fig. 3.
     Fig. 3 shows that 2 GPY (9.9 l/m3) mix has a 19.9% higher compressive strength than reference mix, whereas 3 GPY
(14.85 l/m3) mix has a 8.9% higher compressive strength than reference mix after 7 days of curing. Fig. 3 also shows that the 2
GPY (9.9 l/m3) mix has a 12.3% higher compressive strength than reference mix, whereas 3 GPY (14.85 l/m3) mix has a 27.9%
higher compressive strength than reference mix after 28 days of curing. Furthermore, after 7 days of curing 2 GPY mix gives
10.2% more compressive strength than 3 GPY mix (14.85 l/m3) and 19.9% than reference mix. But, 3 GPY (14.85 l/m3) mix
yields 13.9% more compressive strength after 28 days of curing than 2 GPY (9.9 l/m3) mix and 27.9% more than reference mix.
It is important to note, however, that the 3 GPY (14.85 l/m3) mix shows a slight decrease in strength after 7 days compared to
the 2 GPY (9.9 l/m3) mix.

                                        Fig. 3. Compressive strengths using carbon nano-tube replacements.
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                                               Fig. 4. (28 day) Compressive strength versus Slump.

    As previously noted, additional field tests were performed to test the slump of the various mix designs in order to test
workability. Fig. 4 compares slump to 28-day compressive strength.
    A higher slump value generally indicates higher workability or flow of the mix, but is typically associated with a reduction
in compressive strength. However, as shown in Fig. 4, in the case of water reducer mixes using 2 GPY (9.9 l/m3) and 3 GPY

       Fig. 5. Field observations of test mixes: Reference mix after five years (left), sample mixes after six months, and one winter (right).
M.M. Patel et al. / Case Studies in Construction Materials xxx (2018) e00207                                            7

(14.85 l/m3) carbon nano-tube admixture replacements, both the slump and the compressive strength after 28 days of curing
are higher than for the reference mix. Such results suggest that using that air –entrainment, slump and are valuable because
they suggest that using carbon nano-tube as water replacements may have cascading benefits. Namely, increased
compressive strength, workability and durability. Furthermore, the 3 GPY (14.85 l/m3) mix appears to be a superior product
in terms of workability during placement and long-term strength to the 2 GYP (9.9 l/m3) mix. While results for higher ratio
carbon nano-tube (i.e., 4 GYP or 5 GYP mixes) is unknown, one hypothesis includes that higher percentages of carbon nano-
tube admixtures in the mix design may continue to retard the curing process (decreasing short-term (7 day) compressive
strengths, and increasing workability), while producing higher long-term (28 day) compressive strengths. Potential reasons
for such trends may be that nano-tubes work on the nanoscopic level and are non-reactive materials. Finally, carbon nano-
tubes are light but strong, potentially decreasing the concrete load. However, since water is required for hydration, further
testing is recommended to assess what ratio of carbon nano-tube admixture as replacement is the threshold for increased
strength, while maintaining workability.
     As a final preliminary test, the authors performed a visual inspection of the sample mixes in-situ in the field (Fig. 5). While
it is too early to fully document the durability performance of both mixes, according to visual inspection of the construction
test-site after one (relatively mild) winter season, no noticeable difference exists between the 2 GPY (9.9 l/m3) and 3 GPY
(14.85 l/m3) mix samples, and both installations appear to be in good condition.
     The authors hypothesize that due to the tested (i.e. increased workability and compressive strength) and reported (i.e.
reduced permeability and shrinkage) properties of carbon nano-tube concrete mix designs, such mixes will be more
resistant to freeze-thaw cycles as well as to regular wear-and-tear of roadway pavement. As such, such mix designs will likely
increase the concrete’s overall in-situ durability and reduce the need for maintenance and repair when placed in Denver,
Colorado and similar climates.

5. Conclusions and future work

   While it is too early to fully document the impact of carbon nano-tube admixture on concrete mixes’ durability and in-situ
road-way maintenance, based on slump, air-entrainment and compressive strength testing, it is shown that carbon nano-
tube is a viable admixture, which meets existing design standards. Furthermore, based on a comparison of test results for 2
GPY (9.9 l/m3) and 3 GPY (14.85 l/m3) mix designs, it is recommended for the City and County of Denver to select 3 GPY
(14.85 l/m3) mix to address issues of cracking in concrete pavement. 3 GPY (14.85 l/m3) mix gives higher slump and higher
compressive strength, which is opposite to usual trends, and, potentially a distinct advantage. Increasing workability may
result in reductions in construction time and compaction efforts. It may also help to smooth and quickly finish the pavement.
Similarly, increased compressive strength may also help to minimize maintenance. In conclusion, carbon nano-tubes appear
to have beneficial performance impacts on the standard mix design for road-ways in Denver, Colorado. Although cost data is
not available from the manufacturer of Edencrete at this time, future testing is recommended to perform life-cycle cost
benefit analysis for the product to fully test the environmental and economic impacts of the new admixture technology.

Conflicts of interest



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