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Iowa State University--Becoming the Best

Initial Characterization of Geopolymer Based UHPC Material Properties


Principal investigators:

Project status

In progress

Start date: 03/01/17
End date: 02/28/18



Partner(s): Iowa DOT Final Design Section Leader Dean Bierwagen & Buchanan County Engineer Brian Keierleber

About the research


Ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) has been attracting more and more interest in the bridge engineering community over the past decade due to its excellent strength, ductility, and durability. However, the high material costs associated with UHPC have prevented it from completely replacing more conventional concrete mix designs.

Recently, a Chinese research team successfully developed a unique and innovative but low-cost geopolymer-based UHPC formula design: G-UHPC. In this formula, geopolymer composites are used to replace the cement found in traditional UHPC. By using geopolymer materials, it is not only cost effective but also environmentally friendly.

G-UHPC was originally developed for applications in protective structures, and research conducted so far has mainly focused on its blast-resistant properties. In the proposed research, more complete material tests following the ASTM International and/or American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) standards are to more fully evaluate the material properties. Specifically, the compression, tension, bending strength, and modulus of elasticity will be tested as well as permeability, bond strength, and followability. After the material properties are evaluated with code-based laboratory tests, a bridge concept that makes economical use of the unique characteristics of the material will be developed.

It is anticipated that after successful evaluation of the important material properties, the cost-effective and environmentally-friendly G-UHPC may be a very attractive option for future bridge construction and repair. If successful, this work will reduce overall bridge life-cycle costs by both taking advantage of its higher strength and very low (close to zero) permeability, which could essentially eliminate deterioration. Reducing cost is essential for maintaining a state of good repair when budgets are severely limited.

It is also expected that the success of this project would lead to a series of future collaborative research and funding opportunities through federal, state, and local agencies and academia organizations both nationally and internationally.