How soon can you use your new concrete driveway?

Jinying Zhu:


Department of Civil Engineering

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

1110 S 67th St., Omaha, NE 68182, USA


Popular version of paper 4aEA2, “Monitoring hardening of concrete using ultrasonic guided waves” Presented Thursday morning, Nov. 5, 2015, 8:50 AM, ORLANDO room,
170th ASA Meeting, Jacksonville, FL


Concrete is the most commonly used construction material in the world. The performance of concrete structures is largely determined by properties of fresh concrete at early ages. Concrete gains strength through a chemical reaction between water and cement (hydration), which gradually change a fluid fresh concrete mix to a rigid and hard solid. The process is called setting and hardening.  It is important to measure the setting times, because you may not have enough time to mix and place concrete if the setting time is too early, while too late setting will cause delay in strength gain.  The setting and hardening process is affected by many parameters, including water and cement ratio, temperature, and chemical admixtures.  The standard method to test setting time is to measure penetration resistance of fresh concrete samples in laboratory, which may not represent the real condition in field.

Ultrasonic waves have been proposed to monitor the setting and hardening process of concrete by measuring wave velocity change. When concrete becomes hard, the stiffness increases, and the ultrasonic velocity also increases. The authors found there is a clear relationship between the shear wave velocity and the traditional penetration resistance. However, most ultrasonic tests measure a small volume of concrete sample in laboratory, and they are not suitable for field application. In this paper, the authors proposed an ultrasonic guided wave test method. Steel reinforcements (rebars) are used in most concrete structures. When ultrasonic guided waves propagate within rebar, they leak energy to surrounding concrete, and the energy leakage rate is proportion to the stiffness of concrete.  Ultrasonic waves can be introduced into rebars from one end and the echo signal will be received at the same end using the same ultrasonic sensor.  This test method has a simple test setup, and is able to monitor the concrete hardening process continuously.

Figure 2 shows guided wave echo signals measured on a 19mm diameter rebar embedded in concrete. It is clear that the signal amplitude decreases with the age of concrete (2 ~ 6 hours). The attenuation can be plotted vs. age for different cement/concrete mixes. Figure 3 shows the attenuation curves for 3 cement paste mixes. It is known that a cement mix with larger water cement ratio (w/c) will have slower strength gain, which agrees with the ultrasonic guided wave test, where the w/c=0.5 mix has lower attenuation rate.  When there is a void around the rebar, energy leakage will be less than the case without a void, which is also confirmed by the test result in Figure 3.

Summary: This study presents experimental results using ultrasonic guided waves to monitor concrete setting and hardening process. It shows the guided wave leakage attenuation is proportional to the stiffness change of fresh concrete. Therefore the leakage rate can be used to monitor the concrete strength gain at early ages. This study may have broader applications in other disciplines to measure mechanical property of material using guided wave.


Figure. 1 Principle of ultrasonic guided wave test.


Figure. 2 Ultrasonic echo signals measured in an embedded rebar for concrete age of 2~6 hours.


Figure. 3 Guided wave attenuation rate in a rebar embedded in different cement pastes.


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