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Fire behaviour of concrete produced with selected plastic

waste aggregates


Jos Guilherme Colao Alegre Saraiva Lima


Extended Abstract


Supervisor: Professor Doutor Joo Pedro Rama Ribeiro Correia (IST)
Co-Supervisor: Professor Doutor Jorge Manuel Calio Lopes de Brito (IST)






November 2012



Extended abstract

1

1. Introduction
The production of plastic waste has been increasing considerably, and is mostly sent to
dumping grounds. The interest in recycling it, both ecologic and economic, is not only due to its ag-
gressiveness towards the environment but also to its high volume in dumping grounds and high re-
sistance to atmospheric and biological agents, making this solution unsustainable.
Several studies related to its reuse have been carried out, in which the use of plastic waste
aggregates (PWA) as a partial substitute of natural aggregates (NA) in the production of structural
concrete is one of the goals (e.g., Ferreira, 2011; Silva, 2011; Saikia and Brito, 2011). This turns out to
be a very interesting medium term solution for disposing of plastic waste since, in addition to allow-
ing the flow of a high volume of waste which otherwise would be landfilled, its incorporation in con-
crete is an alternative to the extraction of natural aggregates from quarries. The weak bond between
the aggregates and the cementitious matrix results in an increase of the porosity of concrete. There-
fore, the substitution of NA by PWA results in a decay of the mechanical performance (Saiki and
Brito, 2011) and of the durability-related properties (Silva, 2011) of concrete. Such performance
reduction increases with the replacement ratio.
Although concrete is a fire-resistant material, due to its incombustibility and low thermal con-
ductivity coefficient (compared to steel), its exposure to high temperatures induces a series of physic-
chemical reactions causing a degradation of its mechanical properties. The exposure of concrete to
high temperatures, associated to the thermal incompatibility of its constituents, results in the accumu-
lation of local stresses and, subsequently, in the formation of micro-cracks, depending its extension on
the temperature of exposure and the materials nature, namely the aggregates and the binder.
Above 100 C, the free water retained by capillarity inside concrete begins to evaporate. This
process ends at between 200 C and 300 C without any noticeable major changes in concrete. Dehy-
dration of the cementitious matrix occurs between 300 C and 400 C, which leads to major strength
loss and to the appearance of superficial cracks. At higher temperatures (between 400 C and 800 C),
the different thermal expansion of concretes components causes inner stresses and subsequent crack-
ing. Thermal expansion of limestone aggregates is clearly lower than for other types of aggregates, and
they even suffer a volume decrease between 600 C and 800 C due to their de-carbonation, a highly
endothermic reaction which is associated to a significant loss of mass and mechanical strength (Brito
and Neves, 1997). According to Chan et al. (1999), the major degradation of the mechanical strength of
concrete occurs at this stage. Between 950 and 1200 C, concrete becomes a calcinated material.
The fire behaviour of concrete is strongly influenced by its water content. Its evaporation re-
sults in an increase of its volume which, due to being confined to concrete pores, causes internal
pressures that can lead to cracking and to spalling of the surface layer of concrete.
PWA are considerably more sensitive to high temperatures than the remaining constituents of
concrete, due to their combustibility. For the use of concrete containing PWA to become possible in the
building sector, it is necessary to know its properties, in particular its fire behaviour, including its me-
chanical strength degradation and fire reaction properties. It is essential to quantify fire both behavioural
aspects and, based on the corresponding performance, to conclude whether this material can withstand
high temperatures without collapsing or endangering human lives. It is also important to assess its resid-
ual mechanical performance, regarding its use after exposure to high temperatures. This dissertation
aims to fulfil the lack of information on the topic.
Three types of plastic waste aggregates, including coarse and fine particles, and two replace-
ment ratios (7.5% and 15%) were studied. The residual properties were determined for two thermal
Fire behaviour of concrete produced with selected plastic waste aggregates


2

exposures (heating according to ISO 834 up to 600 C and 800 C, temperatures that were then main-
tained for 1 hour). The concrete specimens were characterized before and after the thermal exposure
by their compressive strength, splitting tensile strength, modulus of elasticity, ultrasonic pulse velocity
(UPV), surface hardness (Schmidt hammer) and water absorption (by immersion). Fire reaction proper-
ties were tested in a cone calorimeter for three heat fluxes (25 kW/m
2
, 50 kW/m
2
and 75 kW/m
2
).
2. Experimental programme
2.1 Materials
In this investigation, crushed limestone and river sand were used as natural coarse and fine
aggregates, respectively. Three types of poly (ethylene terephthalate), PET, waste aggregates were
analysed: coarse / flakes (Pc) and fines (Pf), resulting from shredded PET waste, and pellets (Pp),
consisting of nearly-spherical shaped granules obtained from a post-heat treatment of PET waste. All
concrete specimens were produced with CEM II A-L 42.5 R cement and tap water. The aggregates
were characterized through the tests listed in Table 1, in accordance with the standards indicated.
Table 1 - Aggregate tests.


These tests allowed quantifying the differences between natural aggregates (NA) and plastic
waste aggregates (PWA) in terms of density, shape and size. The results are shown in Table 2.
Table 2 - Aggregate tests results.
Type of aggregate
Coarse
gravel
Fine
gravel
Granule Coarse sand Fine sand Pc Pp Pf
Particle dry density [kg/m
3
] 2671 2665 2732 2717 2647 1302 1303 1280
Water absorption [%] 0.55 0.92 0.31 0.05 0.15 0.75 0.39 0.11
Loose bulk density [kg/m
3
] 1394 1420 1469 1461 1462 261 739 438
Los Angeles coefficient [%] 32.0 29.3 - - - - - -
Shape index [%] 11.0 16.2 - - - - - -
2.2 Sample preparation and compositions
The grading curve of concrete was determined using the Faurys method and the Si-
kacomp2.5 software, considering a maximum size aggregate of 22.4 mm. The reference concrete
(RC) was formulated for the target strength class C30/37 with an Abrams cone slump value of
125 10 mm, which was obtained using a cement content of 350 kg/m
3
and a water / cement ratio
(w/c) of 0.54. No admixtures or additional constituents were used.
Two replacement ratios of natural aggregates NA by PWA were evaluated for each type of
plastic aggregate, 7.5% and 15%. Due to the relevant mechanical performance decrease verified in the
investigation of Saikia and Brito (2011) for higher replacement ratios, only 7.5% was studied for Pc,
resulting in six different mixes: reference concrete (RC); Pc 7.5; Pp 7.5 and Pp 15; Pf 7.5 and Pf 15.
Tests Standard
Size grading analysis NP EN 933-1 and NP EN 933-2
Particle density and water absorption NP EN 1097-6
Loose bulk density NP EN 1097-3
Los Angeles abrasion LNEC E 237
Shape index NP EN 933-4
Extended abstract

3

The Abrams cone slump value of all mixes was set equal to 125 10 mm, in order to allow a
valid comparison between the results of each mix. The different influence of each type of PWA in the
workability of fresh concrete, associated to its replacement ratio, imposed an adjustment of the w/c
of each mix. The replacement of NA by flaky PWA (Pc and Pf) caused a reduction of slump values, the
more pronounced the greater the incorporation ratio, resulting in a w/c increase. On the other hand,
the more spherical shape of Pp in comparison to the NA allowed a reduction of the w/c.
The composition of all mixes is shown in Table 3.
Table 3 - Composition of concrete mixes.
Mix code RC Pc 7.5 Pf 7.5 Pf 15 Pp 7.5 Pp 15
w/c 0.54 0.61 0.56 0.60 0.53 0.51
Component
Particle size
[mm]
Quantities [kg/m
3
]
Natural
coarse ag-
gregate
16 - 22.4 323.0 311.3 319.6 313.0 324.6 328.0
11.2 - 16 321.2 309.6 317.8 311.2 322.8 326.1
8 - 11.2 122.8 113.2 121.5 119.0 123.4 124.7
5.6 - 8 125.5 60.9 124.2 121.6 126.1 127.4
4 - 5.6 110.7 60.0 109.6 107.3 111.3 112.4
Natural fine
aggregate
2 - 4 204.8 176.1 127.4 51.0 102.9 0.0
1 - 2 164.0 158.0 105.2 47.2 131.3 98.9
0.5 - 1 102.5 98.8 101.4 99.3 103.0 104.1
0.25 - 0.5 257.0 247.7 254.4 249.1 258.3 261.0
0.125 - 0.25 72.4 69.8 71.7 70.2 72.8 73.5
Pc
8 - 11.2 0 2.5 0 0 0 0
5.6 - 8 0 27.6 0 0 0 0
4 - 5.6 0 21.5 0 0 0 0
2 - 4 0 9.8 0 0 0 0
Pf
2 - 4 0 0 35.3 69.1 0 0
1 - 2 0 0 28.9 56.6 0 0
Pp
2 - 4 0 0 0 0 49.5 100.0
1 - 2 0 0 0 0 17.4 35.1
Cement 350 350 350 350 350 350
Water 189 214 186 179 196 210

For each mix / test conditions (28 days, T20, T600 and T800) five cubic samples (150 mm)
and five cylindrical samples (150 x 300 mm) were produced. Three additional cubic specimens
(150 mm) were made for water absorption (by immersion) test for both fire exposures (T600 e T800)
and reference temperature (T20). Cubic samples (100 mm) were cut with a diamond saw blade in
order to obtain fire reaction test specimens (100 x 100 x 15 mm), three for each mix / heat flux.
The samples were demoulded 24 hours after casting and placed in a wet curing chamber (T =
20 C and RH = 100%) until 28 days. The specimens used for fire behaviour characterization were
then transferred to a dry chamber (T = 20 2 C and RH = 50 5 %) until their testing. T20, T600 and
T800 samples remained there until 49 days. The time elapsed between casting of the samples and
the fire reaction tests was at least about 17 weeks.
Fire behaviour of concrete produced with selected plastic waste aggregates


4

2.3 Tests on fresh concrete
The fresh concrete was characterized in what concerns consistency (by means of the Abrams cone
test, NP EN 12350-2, 2002) and density (NP EN 12350-6, 2002).
2.4 Thermal exposure
The degradation of the residual (post-fire) mechanical properties of concrete containing PWA
was evaluated for two thermal exposures, T600 and T800, corresponding respectively to a maximum
exposure temperature of 600 C and 800 C for 60 minutes. Heating was carried out in an oven fired by
gas burners according to the ISO 834 standard curve, defined by the following expression,


where
g
is the temperature inside the oven (in C) and t is the time in minutes. The samples were
cooled inside the oven.
Registered time / temperature (inside the oven) curves are shown in Figures 1.a and 1.b, for the
thermal exposures T600 and T800, respectively. The standard fire curve ISO 834 for each peak tempera-
ture (600 C and 800 C) and the cooling curve defined in EN 1992 - part 1.2 are also represented.


a)

b)
Figure 1 - Registered time / temperature curves for each thermal exposure and standard curve ISO 834:
a) T600; b) T800.
In order to evaluate the evolution of temperature inside the concrete specimens, three type-
K thermocouples were introduced into a sample of each composition / thermal exposure at different
depth levels (10 mm, 37.5 mm and 75 mm from the sample base).
2.5 Tests on hardened concrete
Each type of concrete was characterized regarding its compressive strength, splitting tensile
strength and modulus of elasticity. The ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV), the surface hardness (Schmidt
hammer) and the water absorption (by immersion) were also measured before and after fire exposure in
order to evaluate the residual strength of concrete containing PWA by expeditious and non-destructive
methods. The tests on hardened concrete were carried out according to the standards shown in Table 4.




Extended abstract

5

Table 4 - Tests on hardened concrete.
Test Standard
Compressive strength NP EN 12390-3
Splitting tensile strength NP EN 12390-6
Modulus of elasticity LNEC E 397
Ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV) EN 12504-4
Surface hardness (Schmidt hammer) EN 12504-2
Water absorption (by immersion) LNEC E-394
2.6 Fire reaction experiments
The fire reaction properties were determined through cone calorimeter tests (Figure 2), ac-
cording to ASTM E1354 and ISO 5660 standards. Concrete specimens with 15 x 100 x 100 mm
3
were
exposed to heat fluxes of 25 kW/m
2
, 50 kW/m
2
and 75 kW/m
2
(corresponding to average tempera-
tures at the cone surface of 605 C, 782 C and 902 C, respectively) for 30 minutes. Two specimens
were tested for each composition and heat flux.

Figure 2 - Cone calorimeter.
The following fire reaction properties were studied: heat release rate (HRR), time to ignition,
remaining mass, effective heat of combustion (EHC), specific extinction area (SEA) and release rate of
carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO
2
). Based on the fire reaction tests results, it is possible
to estimate the fire reaction class of each composition, which reflects the combustibility and the re-
lease of toxic gases during its combustion.

3. Results and discussion
3.1 Properties of fresh concrete
The results obtained for slump test (Abrams cone) and fresh density are shown in Table 5 and Figure
3, respectively.
Fire behaviour of concrete produced with selected plastic waste aggregates


6

Table 5 - Slump tests results (Abrams cone).
Slump [cm]
Mix 28 days T20 T600 T800
RC 12.2 12.9 12.6 13.2
Pc 7.5 11.3 11.8 11.7 11.6
Pp 7.5 12.0 13.3 12.8 14.0
Pp 15 12.2 13.5 11.4 13.5
Pf 7.5 12.8 13.0 12.1 13.4
Pf 15 12.3 12.0 11.7 13.7


Figure 3- Density of fresh concrete as a function of the replacement ratio for different types of aggregates.

The values for each mix fulfilled the established range (125 15 mm), allowing a valid com-
parison of results of the various mixes. In order to achieve the target workability, it was necessary to
adjust the w/c of each mix. The incorporation of flaky shaped PWA (Pc e Pf) led to an increase of the
w/c, while the substitution of NA by Pp allowed a decrease of the w/c.
The lower particle density of plastic aggregates in comparison to NA resulted in a nearly lin-
ear decrease of the concretes fresh density with the replacement ratio. For mixes Pc 7.5, Pp 15 and
Pf 15, the incorporation of WPA resulted in a density reduction between 100 kg/m
3
and 200 kg/m
3
.
Differences between each type of PWA may be explained by the different w/c of each mix.
3.2 Tests on hardened concrete
The mechanical properties of the different types of concrete at 28 days are shown in Table 6.
The values presented for each mix correspond to the average result (f
cm.28
), the corresponding coef-
ficient of variation (c
v
) and relative variation in comparison to RC ().
Table 6 - Mechanical properties at 28 days.
Mix f
cm. 28
[MPa] c f
ctm. 28
[MPa] c E
cm. 28
[GPa] c
RC 44.0 3% - 2.8 8% - 34.8 8% -
Pc 7.5 29.3 2% -34% 2.3 5% -19% 26.8 2% -23%
Pp 7.5 38.6 5% -12% 2.5 12% -11% 31.8 3% -9%
Pp 15 36.3 3% -18% 2.0 8% -28% 28.8 2% -17%
Pf 7.5 34.7 1% -21% 2.3 6% -19% 29.8 1% -14%
Pf 15 27.5 3% -37% 1.8 16% -37% 21.9 4% -37%
Extended abstract

7


As expected, the replacement of NA by PWA resulted in a decrease of the concretes me-
chanical performance (compressive strength, splitting tensile strength and modulus of elasticity), the
more pronounced the greater the incorporation ratio.
The deterioration of the mechanical strength of concrete is related to the significantly lower
stiffness of plastic aggregates in comparison with other constituents of concrete and weak bonding
between them and the cementitious matrix, which result in a poor contribution of PWA to the
strength of concrete. Apart from its smooth surface, which results in a weak macroscopic bonding,
the low porosity of PWA does not allow the impregnation and subsequent crystallization of the
binder therein.
The weak bond, associated with the less continuous aggregates grading curve of concrete
with PWA than the one for the reference concrete, results in an increase of the former concretes
porosity, affecting its mechanical strength.
The deterioration related to each type of PWA was not constant, which can be explained by
their different shape and size and the corresponding influence in the workability of concrete. In or-
der to maintain the established workability, the w/c of each mix was adjusted. The higher w/c of
mixes containing Pc and Pf resulted in a decrease of the mechanical performance of concrete due to
the associated increase of the porosity, while the deterioration related to the replacement of NA by
Pp was attenuated by the lower w/c.
The splitting tensile strength proved to be more susceptible to the substitution of NA by
PWA, in comparison to compressive strength. This can be explained by the greater susceptibility of
this property to the quality of the bonding between the aggregate and the cementitious matrix.
Although plastic aggregates have a significantly higher tensile strength than other constitu-
ents of concrete, rupture occurs at the interface between the PWA and the cementitious matrix due
to their weak bond. Despite the highest w/c ratio, Pc 7.5 obtained similar results to Pp 7.5 and Pf 7.5,
which can be explained by a significant contribution of Pc aggregates to splitting tensile strength,
only possible due to their larger size in comparison to other types of PWA.
Besides the increase of the porosity associated to the replacement of NA by PWA, the reduc-
tion of modulus of elasticity due to the incorporation of PWA is related to their lower modulus of
elasticity in comparison with the remaining constituents of concrete.
The registered peak temperatures inside the concrete specimens for each composition /
thermal exposure are shown in Table 7. Some thermocouples did not provide valid measurements,
and, therefore, the corresponding values are not listed.
Table 7 - Maximum internal temperatures reached for each mix / thermal exposure.
Maximum internal temperature [C]
T600 T800
Depth [cm] 10 37.5 75 10 37.5 75
RC 151 148 146 485 453 438
Pc 7,5 407 332 323 625 572 564
Pp 7,5 - 224 220 - 509 505
Pp 15 334 331 322 606 568 568
Pf 7,5 264 247 237 565 - 562
Pf 15 327 327 319 588 - 581

As expected, the maximum temperatures within concrete were higher near the surface of
the specimen, without ever reaching the thermal exposure temperature. The incorporation of PWA
Fire behaviour of concrete produced with selected plastic waste aggregates


8

in concrete resulted in an increase of the temperatures inside the specimens. The increase of the
porosity of concrete, due to the replacement of NA by PWA and to the thermal decomposition of
plastic aggregates, seems to have facilitated the propagation of heat inside the concrete specimens.
Temperatures registered in the reference concrete for exposure T600 were lower than expected.
In similar experiments, Marques (2010) and Vieira (2010) registered temperatures between 200 C and
300 C inside current concrete submitted to an equivalent thermal exposure. This difference seems to
have been caused by an incident that occurred in the test of RC specimen for T600 exposure: in fact, this
specimen fell from the pile in which it was placed and the thermocouples may have stopped providing
reliable measurements.
The results of the residual mechanical performance (compressive strength, tensile strength
and modulus of elasticity) of concrete exposed to high temperatures are shown in Tables 8 to 10.
The values correspond to the average value of the property obtained for each composition, the coef-
ficient of variation (c
v
) and the residual value relative to the reference temperature (T20%). The in-
fluence of temperature on the residual mechanical properties is illustrated in Figures 4 to 6.
Table 8 - Residual compressive strength.
T20 T600 T800
Mix f
cm
[MPa] c f
cm
[MPa] c %T20 f
cm
[MPa] c %T20
RC 48.7 2% 36.6 8% 75% 15.5 19% 32%
Pc 7.5 33.7 3% 19.6 23% 58% 7.7 19% 23%
Pp 7.5 43.8 7% 20.6 16% 47% 12.7 42% 29%
Pp 15 42.3 2% 18.6 16% 44% 12.9 32% 30%
Pf 7.5 41.7 3% 22.3 11% 54% 8.6 39% 21%
Pf 15 32.4 2% 15.8 32% 49% 5.8 26% 18%


Figure 4 - Influence of temperature in residual compressive strength.
Results indicate an increase of the degradation of the compressive strength with the re-
placement of NA by PWA, the more pronounced the higher the exposure temperature.
The thermal decomposition of plastic aggregates results in an increase of the porosity of
concrete, reducing its compressive strength. Moreover, the subsequent higher porosity decreases
the resistance of concrete to the propagation of high temperatures, an effect which was confirmed
by the temperatures registered within the samples. This fact, in addition to the combustibility of
plastics aggregates, aggravates the thermal exposure.
The replacement rate increase of 7.5% to 15% does not seem to have a considerable effect
on the post-fire compressive strength of concrete. It is likely that the deterioration of the compres-
sive strength due to the higher porosity owing to the thermal decomposition of PWA is attenuated
Extended abstract

9

by the better accommodation of thermal expansions provided by the voids created. Furthermore,
such higher porosity also allows confined gases to escape, reducing the accumulation of internal
stresses and, thereby, concrete cracking. The attenuation of the effects of replacing NA by PWA in
the degradation of compressive strength are more evident for exposure T800, for which the thermal
decomposition of the PWA and thermal expansion of the constituents of the concrete are consid-
erably more pronounced than for T600 exposure.
Table 9 - Residual splitting tensile strength.
T20 T600 T800
Mix f
ctm
[MPa] c f
ctm
[MPa] c %T20 f
ctm
[MPa] c %T20
RC 3.62 21.1% 2.04 4% 56% 0.66 18% 18%
Pc 7.5 2.29 10.8% 1.35 16% 59% 0.54 41% 24%
Pp 7.5 2.72 8.6% 1.61 23% 59% 0.84 30% 31%
Pp 15 2.24 11.0% 1.19 23% 53% 0.54 20% 24%
Pf 7.5 2.59 15.9% 1.54 26% 60% 0.39 59% 15%
Pf 15 2.26 6.1% 1.08 29% 48% 0.36 28% 16%


Figure 5 - Influence of temperature in residual splitting tensile strength.
The deterioration of the splitting tensile strength of concrete containing PWA was roughly similar
to that of compressive strength. The incorporation of PWA has not resulted in an increase of the degra-
dation of residual splitting tensile strength, yielding, in general, better results for the most severe thermal
exposure. This may be explained by the fact that the higher porosity related to the incorporation of PWA
attenuates the accumulation of internal stresses due to the thermal incompatibility of the constituents of
concrete and allows the dispersion of gases confined in its pores, thereby reducing its cracking.
Table 10 - Residual modulus of elasticity.
T20 T600 T800
Mix E
cm
[GPa] c E
cm
[GPa] c %T20 E
cm
[GPa] c %T20
RC 37.0 2% 20.2 6% 54% 6.4 18% 17%
Pc 7.5 25.5 4% 12.2 14% 48% 4.4 14% 17%
Pp 7.5 34.3 1% 17.6 7% 51% 4.5 20% 13%
Pp 15 29.4 1% 12.6 7% 43% 3.8 16% 13%
Pf 7.5 32.2 3% 13.7 16% 43% 3.7 12% 11%
Pf 15 24.8 5% 9.5 22% 38% 2.8 12% 11%

Fire behaviour of concrete produced with selected plastic waste aggregates


10


Figure 6 - Influence of temperature in the residual modulus of elasticity.
The modulus of elasticity of all compositions tested was, in general, more susceptible to the
thermal exposure than compressive strength and splitting tensile strength. The greater reduction in
this property is associated to its higher susceptibility to concrete cracking, which is intensified with
increasing thermal exposure.
The results obtained for the non-destructive testing: ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV), surface
hardness (rebound number - RN) and water absorption by immersion (WA) are shown in Tables 11
to 13. The results presented correspond to the average obtained for each composition, correspond-
ing coefficient of variation (c
v
), percentile variation from values of the reference concrete () and the
residual value relative to the reference temperature (T20%). The influence of temperature on the
residual values of these properties may be observed in Figures 7, 9 and 11.
Table 11 - Residual ultrasonic pulse-velocity (UPV).
T20 T600 T800
Mix UPV [m/s] c UPV [m/s] c %T20 UPV [m/s] c %T20
RC 4966 0% - 3537 17% 71% 1562 29% 31%
Pc 7,5 4561 1% -8% 2736 13% 55% 1172 30% 24%
Pp 7,5 4945 1% 0% 2659 26% 54% 923 60% 19%
Pp 15 4771 1% -4% 2747 9% 55% 916 38% 18%
Pf 7,5 4515 2% -9% 3179 8% 64% 956 28% 19%
Pf 15 4150 1% -16% 2328 24% 47% 780 17% 16%

Figure 7 - Influence of temperature in residual ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV).
As expected, UPV results for the reference temperature (T20) indicate a decrease of the UPV
with increasing replacement ratio. This can be explained by the higher porosity of concrete resulting from
the substitution of NA per PWA, not only due to the weak bonding between the plastic aggregates and
the cementitious matrix, but also to the lesser continuous grading curve in comparison to the reference
concrete. This decrease of UPV is more pronounced by the higher w/c ratio of concrete produced with
flaky shaped PWA (Pc and Pf) and less pronounced for the compositions produced with Pp.
Extended abstract

11

Concerning the residual UPV of concrete exposed to high temperatures, the incorporation of
PWA resulted in increased degradation, the more so the greater the replacement ratio. This is explained
by the higher porosity of concrete due to the decomposition of PWA. There is no clear common pattern
for each type of PWA, and the influence of each one on the residual UPV degradation is not evident. The
relationship between residual UPV and compressive strength is nearly linear (Figure 8), which confirms
the suitability of measuring the UPV as an expeditious and non-destructive test to measure the residual
compressive strength of concrete containing PWA exposed to fire. As found for the mechanical perform-
ance properties, increasing the incorporation ratio of PWA from 7.5% to 15% did not increase the degra-
dation of the residual UPV, which can be explained by the same reasons.

Figure 8 - Relationship between UPV and compressive strength.

Table 12 - Residual rebound number (RN).
T20 T600 T800
Mix RN [-] c RN [-] c %T20 RN [-] c %T20
RC 34 7% - 32 10% 94% 21 16% 64%
Pc 7,5 32 3% -5% 27 11% 85% 18 10% 57%
Pp 7,5 34 2% 1% 31 7% 91% 23 19% 67%
Pp 15 36 3% 6% 31 10% 87% 23 13% 66%
Pf 7,5 31 2% -7% 26 2% 84% 19 18% 61%
Pf 15 31 3% -7% 22 18% 70% 16 9% 51%


Figure 9 - Influence of temperature in the residual rebound number.

Fire behaviour of concrete produced with selected plastic waste aggregates


12

Regarding the surface hardness, it was not possible to conclude about the influence of substi-
tuting NA for PWA, as the rebound number (RN) proved to vary linearly as a function of w/c. This oc-
curred because the surface hardness is directly related with the strength of the cementitious matrix.
However, one expected the replacement of NA by PWA to cause a reduction of the RN due to the sub-
sequent higher porosity of the paste and this was not clearly observed from the results obtained.
The results of the residual RN indicate a worsening of its deterioration with the increasing of
PWA content, except for concretes containing Pp, which does not seem to be influenced by its in-
corporation ratio. According to Savva et al. (2005), the reduction of the RN is justified by the chemi-
cal decomposition and cracking of the surface layer of concrete caused by the thermal exposure. The
combustion of PWA increases the porosity, weakening the surface layer of concrete.
Figure 10 shows that the relationship between the rebound number and compressive
strength is nearly linear. The relevant variability of the results does not allow the RN to be used as
quantitative indicator of post-fire compressive strength. However, the surface hardness is a useful
non-destructive and expeditious test in the detection of heterogeneities in concrete, elements ex-
posed to high temperatures and, thus, the areas most affected by the fire.

Figure 10 - Relation between the rebound number and the compressive strength.
As expected, the water absorption by immersion (WA) (Table 13 and Figure 11) increased
with the w/c and the replacement ratio, the first parameter having been more influent. According to
Silva (2011), besides the greater porosity due to the higher w/c, the higher WA values obtained for
concrete produced with flaky PWA, Pc and Pf, are most likely caused by the accumulation of air bub-
bles in its interface with the cement matrix
Table 13 - Residual water absorption by immersion (WA).
T20 T600 T800
Mix WA [%] c WA [%] c %T20 WA [%] c %T20
RC 13,9 3% - 15,5 30% 112% 19,3 9% 139%
Pc 7,5 15,3 9% +10% 17,6 8% 115% 22,4 10% 146%
Pp 7,5 13,8 11% -0% 14,7 1% 107% 21,6 3% 156%
Pp 15 12,6 1% -10% 13,6 0% 108% 22,3 1% 177%
Pf 7,5 15,3 11% +10% 15,3 3% 100% 22,9 5% 150%
Pf 15 15,6 3% +13% 16,4 4% 105% 27,0 3% 173%

Extended abstract

13


Figure 11 - Influence of temperature in water absorption by immersion.
The replacement of NA by PWA only resulted in a significant increase of the water absorption
(by immersion) for exposure T800. This can be explained by the almost complete combustion of the
plastic aggregates, resulting in a significant increase in the porosity of the concrete. Moreover, for ex-
posure T600, only the plastic aggregates located in the surface layer of concrete specimens suffered
some decomposition. Results associated to different types of PWA are quite similar. There is a possibil-
ity that the values concerning the exposure T600 may be lower than the actual ones, since the cover of
molten plastic may have partially water-tightened the surface layer of the samples.
Figure 12 shows the relationship between average values of compressive strength and water
absorption by immersion. As expected, concrete mixes which have suffered a higher thermal degrada-
tion and, thereby, have a lower post-fire compressive strength correspond to higher water absorption.

Figure 12 - Relationship between the water absorption (by immersion) and post-fire compressive
strength.
3.3 Fire reaction experiments
As an example, Figure 13 illustrates the time dependent results registered for a Pp 15 speci-
men for each incident heat flux. Table 14 lists the maximum value (Max), the average value over 30
minutes (Avg
overall
) and the average value over a period of 180 s after reaching the peak HRR (Avg
180
)
for Pp 7.5 and Pp 15. Due to a problem in the acquisition of EHC values (whose maximum values
were limited to 75 MJ/kg), the corresponding statistical parameters are not presented.

Fire behaviour of concrete produced with selected plastic waste aggregates


14


Figure 13 - Fire reaction properties of Pp 15.

Extended abstract

15

Table 14 - Average values of each fire reaction property for each mix / incident heat flux.
Mix Pp 7,5 Pp 15
Heat flux [kW/m]

25 50 75

25 50 75
Time to ignition [s] 1289 449 220 1249 348 178
HRR [kW/m]
Max

72,4 68,0 39,4

182,0 114,0 116,2

Avg
overall


4,5 9,0 16,6

8,0 19,5 32,0

Avg
180


20,5 18,1 13,1

41,6 64,4 75,0

SEA [m/kg]
Max 1739,2 1587,4 410,3 3065,7 4289,5 384,5
Avg
overall


370,8 513,4 70,9

669,2 495,9 89,9

Avg
180


649,3 402,5 30,7

748,0 256,3 153,1

CO [kg/kg]
Max 0,0240 0,0190 0,0177 0,0309 0,1932 0,0252
Avg
overall


0,0062 0,0057 0,0068

0,0071 0,0163 0,0085

Avg
180


0,0063 0,0022 0,0046

0,0094 0,0025 0,0018

CO [kg/kg]
Max 1,25 0,79 0,44 1,76 1,60 1,00
Avg
overall


0,096 0,069 0,086

0,136 0,259 0,288

Avg
180


0,325 0,125 0,091

0,596 0,658 0,723
Remaining mass 95,7% 94,0% 92,4% 94,7% 90,9% 89,9%
Ignition occurs when the concentration of volatiles from the thermal decomposition of plastic
aggregates is enough for them to react with the sparker and ignite. As expected, the time to ignition (TTI)
decreased with the increase of both incident heat flux and ratio of plastic aggregates incorporation.
In the initial period, for all mixes and heat fluxes, no HRR was detected. After ignition of vol-
atiles from the thermal decomposition of plastic aggregates, HRR greatly increased. After reaching
the peak value, HRR fell gradually due to the decreasing amount of combustible material. For
75 kW/m
2
, more than one peak was observed, which can be explained by the inflammation of plastic
aggregates located deeper in the specimen.
Mass loss, which results mostly from the combustion of plastic aggregates, increased with both
heat flux and combustible material content. The ignition coincided with a noticeable mass drop.
The EHC is obtained numerically from the relationship between released heat and the corre-
sponding mass loss, and it reflects the energy efficiency of the combustion of plastic aggregates.
Higher EHC values would be expected for higher heat fluxes, since increased temperatures result in a
more complete and, therefore, more efficient combustion. Due to the already mentioned anomalies
related with EHC data acquisition, it was not possible to conclude about its relationship with the
incident heat flux.
SEA reflects the release of smoke from the combustion of plastic aggregates. SEA values were
lower for higher heat fluxes, which can be explained by the more complete combustion of plastic aggre-
gates for higher temperatures. Although the release of smoke results from the combustion of plastic
aggregates, increasing the replacement ratio from 7.5% to 15% did not result in higher smoke release.
The yield of CO
2
curves followed a close trend to the corresponding HRR ones, which is due
to the fact that both parameters are directly related to the combustion of plastic aggregates. After
ignition, the release rate of CO
2
greatly increased, reaching its peak value nearly at the same time as
the HRR. The yield of CO
2
increased with the ratio of plastic aggregates incorporation, though no
clear relationship was identified between the CO
2
released and the incident heat flux.
The decreasing oxygen content due to its consumption in the combustion of plastic aggre-
gates resulted in a progressive decrease of the CO
2
yield and an increase of the CO yield, which can
be explained by the fact that combustion gradually becomes more incomplete. The higher values
Fire behaviour of concrete produced with selected plastic waste aggregates


16

were obtained after flames became extinct. Unlike what would be expectable, the ratio of plastic
aggregates incorporation and the incident heat flux did not seem to affect the yield of CO.
Results obtained for all types of WPA were relatively similar, since they consist on the same
material and, consequently, have the same combustible potential. As expected, increasing the incor-
poration ratio of plastic aggregates in concrete from 7.5% to 15% resulted in a worsening of several
fire reaction properties, namely the HHR, the mass drop and the yield of CO
2
.
The European fire reaction classification of building products is based on the single burning
item (SBI) test, a more complex experiment than the cone calorimeter test. Van Hees et al. (2002)
developed software (ConeTools) which, based on the HRR data for 50 kW/m
2
and ignition times,
provides (i) a simulation of the fire growth rate index (FIGRA) obtained in the SBI test and (ii) the
corresponding fire reaction class according to the European standard.
Based on the FIGRA estimated by ConeTools, (Figure 14) all mixes correspond to Euroclasses
A2 to B (noncombustible to non-flammable).

(i) HRR (ii) FIGRA
Figure 14 - FIGRA curve determined by ConeTools for Pp 15.
The Portuguese regulation for the fire safety in residential houses defines a set of require-
ments and restrictions for use of construction materials in several components and locations de-
pending on their fire reaction classification. According to the Portuguese regulation, none of the
analysed mixes can be used as structural concrete in roofs, stairs, ventilation ducts and garbage dis-
posal compartments. Regarding non-structural applications, the legislation bars their use as coating
material on evacuation routes, fire-proof enclosures and walls/ceilings of locations that pose high
risks of fire outbreak and development. In all other components and locations there are no re-
strictions for concrete made of PWA with the incorporation rates analysed in the present study.
4. Conclusions
This dissertation aimed at studying the fire performance of concrete produced with selected
waste plastics aggregates (PWA). The analysis of concrete with varying incorporation of PWA was done
based on the residual mechanical properties after exposure to high temperatures and the fire reaction
properties, i.e., released ratios of heat, smoke, carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO
2
).
The results show a degradation of the residual mechanical properties with the replacement
of natural aggregates (NA) by PWA. The thermal decomposition of plastic aggregates results in an
Extended abstract

17

increase of the porosity of concrete, reducing its mechanical strength. Moreover, the higher porosity
decreases the resistance of concrete to the propagation of high temperatures, an effect which was
confirmed by the registered temperatures within the samples.
Increasing the replacement ratio of 7.5 to 15% did not result in a clear worsening of the deg-
radation of residual mechanical properties as one could expect a priori. The decrease in mechanical
strength of concrete due to the increased porosity stemming from the decomposition of PWA ap-
pears to be attenuated by the fact that it allows a better accommodation of the thermal expansion
of the constituents of concrete and the escape of gases confined inside concrete pores, reducing the
accumulation of internal stresses and thereby minimizing cracking and spalling effects in concrete.
The similarity between the results relative to both replacement ratios is more evident for the expo-
sure T800, for which the thermal decomposition of the PWA and the thermal expansion of the con-
stituents of concrete are more pronounced in comparison to exposure T600.
As expected, in general the incorporation of WPA in concrete results in a worsening of its fire
reaction properties, increasing the heat release rate, the mass loss and the yield of CO
2
, while the
time to ignition decreases. Unlike what would be expectable, increasing the incorporation ratio of
plastic aggregates in concrete did not result in a significant increase of the release of smoke and the
yield of CO.
From the FIGRA estimated by ConeTools, all mixes analysed correspond to fire reaction Euro-
classes A2 to B, which are subjected to a set of restrictions and requirements according to their ap-
plication and location. The Portuguese regulation does not allow the structural use of the concrete
mixes analysed in roofs, stairs, ventilation ducts and garbage disposal compartments. Concerning
non-structural applications, none of the analyzed mixes can be used as coating material on evacua-
tion routes, fire-proof enclosures and walls/ceilings of places that pose high risks of fire outbreak
and development.
Despite the higher mechanical performance degradation of concrete produced with PWA to
high temperatures and the fire reaction related limitations to its application, its usage as both struc-
tural and non-structural concrete does not seem to be compromised from the fire behaviour point
of view, making the incorporation of PWA in concrete an interesting medium-term alternative for
disposing of plastic waste.
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