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November 2013

Supplementary Cementitious Materials and

Blended Cements to Improve Sustainability
of Concrete Pavements

Author Introduction types of SCMs and blended cements

that can be used effectively in concrete
Thomas Van Dam Because of its relatively low-cost,
pavements, answers the question of why
Principal, Nichols Consulting Engineers widespread availability, versatility,
Transportation Research Group SCMs and blended cements should be
and hallmark longevity, hydraulic used, and provides guidance on how they
cement concrete (HCC) is the most
775-329-4955 should be used. This Tech Brief finishes
widely used building material on the
by discussing current trends that may
planet. In transportation infrastructure
impact the future availability of SCMs
Sponsor alone, concrete is used in a variety of
and blended cements.
applications, including bridges, hydraulic
Federal Highway Administration
DTFH61-12-H-00010 structures, retaining walls, barriers, curbs Portland Cement,
and gutters, sidewalks, and, of course, Concrete, and
Unfortunately, this versatility comes
It was common during most of the early
with an environmental price tag. For
and mid-twentieth century to use paving
example, it is recognized that the
mixtures that employed portland cement
material acquisition, transportation,
(specified under AASHTO M 85/
and processing inherent in delivering
ASTM C 150) as the sole binder. From
concrete to a job site has significant
the early 1980s onward, there was an
environmental impacts in terms of
increase in the use of SCMs, such as fly
energy use, consumption of non-
ash (specified under AASHTO M 295/
renewable resources, and greenhouse gas
ASTM C 618) and slag cement (specified
(GHG) emissions.
National Concrete Pavement Technology under AASHTO M 302/ASTM C 989),
Center The latter receives particular emphasis and, today, SCMs are used routinely
2711 South Loop Drive, Suite 4700 because GHG emissions are associated in concrete paving mixtures to provide
Ames, IA 50010-8664 with global climate change, which is economy, improved workability,
expected to grow in importance in the enhanced long-term strength and
Director coming years (TRB 2010). Given these durability, and increased sustainability
Tom Cackler
considerations, there is a compelling (Van Dam et al. 2012).
need to develop strategies to reduce
From an environmental perspective,
the environmental impacts of concrete
Associate Director one of the main advantages of increased
used in transportation infrastructure,
Peter C. Taylor SCM or ground limestone use is that
515-294-9333 including pavements, while maintaining
it can reduce the estimated 0.918 its economic and social value.
tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) that
This Tech Brief describes how are emitted on average for every ton
supplementary cementitious materials of AASHTO M 85 portland cement
(SCMs) and blended cements are used in manufactured in the US. (Marceau
paving concrete as one way of increasing et al. 2010). The U.S. Environmental
the overall sustainability of concrete Protection Agency (US EPA 2013)
mixtures. This brief begins by discussing estimated that cement production
how cement and concrete production was responsible for approximately 35
impacts sustainability, presents the million tons of CO2 equivalent, or just
Sustainability with SCMs and Blended Cements

under 0.6 percent of the total US GHG scale, the amount of clinker used as and other cementitious compounds.
emissions, in 2011. Studies have shown binder can be reduced significantly by Calcium silicate hydrate is a more
that for typical concrete, roughly 85 replacing portland cement with SCMs, desirable hydration product and thus
percent of the energy and 90 percent either by adding SCMs to the concrete the pozzolanic reaction is considered to
of the GHG emissions associated with mixture at the concrete plant or with the have a positive impact on the long-term
concrete production are results of the use of blended cements specified under properties of the hardened concrete.
manufacturing of portland cement AASHTO M 240. The use of blended
SCMs can be blended with portland
(Choate 2003, Marceau et al. 2007). cements is the focus of this Tech Brief.
cement by the cement manufacturer
Some reduction of GHG emissions can
be achieved through improved plant Types of and sold as blended cement under
AASHTO M 240 or added at the
efficiency, but roughly half of the CO2 Supplementary concrete plant by the concrete producer.
emitted is from decomposition of the Cementitious SCMs that are used commonly in paving
raw materials, thus limiting the potential
Materials concrete include fly ash (specified under
improvement through this route alone.
AASHTO M 295) and slag cement
SCMs are materials that, when blended
Therefore, the most effective strategy to (specified under AASHTO M 302).
with portland cement, contribute to the
reduce the GHG emissions associated Natural pozzolans (also specified under
properties of concrete through hydraulic
with concrete without negatively AASHTO M 295 as Class N) are used
activity, pozzolanic activity, or both
affecting concrete performance is less commonly and it is possible that
(Kosmatka and Wilson 2011). Hydraulic
to reduce the amount of portland small amounts of silica fume (specified
activity occurs when phases in the SCM
cement clinker (the nodules produced under AASHTO M 307/ASTM C 1240)
chemically react with water, forming
in a cement kiln) used as a binder in could also be used as one component of
cementitious hydration products similar
concrete. For example, since the late a ternary mixture. Table 1 summarizes
to those formed through hydration of
2000s, AASHTO M 85 allows up to 5 properties of these common SCMs,
portland cement. This is in contrast to
percent high-quality natural limestone noting that calcined clay, shale, and
pozzolanic activity, which is characterized
to be interground with the clinker, metakaolin are classified as Class N
by the reaction between siliceous or
which has the potential to lower the natural pozzolans.
aluminosiliceous material in the SCM
overall GHG emissions associated with
with calcium hydroxide (a reaction Tables 2 and 3 summarize how each
portland cement to approximately 0.90
product from the hydration of portland SCM impacts the behavior of fresh and
tons CO2 per ton of cement. On a larger
cement), forming calcium silicate hydrate hardened concrete, respectively.

Table 1. Typical chemical compositions and select properties of common SCMs (Taylor et al. 2006 from Kosmatka et al. 2002)

Sustainability with SCMs and Blended Cements

Table 2. Effects of SCMs on the properties of fresh paving concrete (Taylor et al. 2006)

Sources: Thomas and Wilson (2002); Kosmatka et al. (2003)

Table 3. Effects of SCMs on the properties of hardened paving concrete (Taylor et al. 2006)

Sources: Thomas and Wilson (2002); Kosmatka et al. (2003)

Sustainability with SCMs and Blended Cements

Fly ash is an industrial by-product As an industrial by-product material, the Slag is an attractive SCM for a number
material produced at coal-fired power composition, reactivity, and properties of reasons. For one, the typical dosage
plants. As the pulverized coal combusts, of fly ash are highly variable. This of slag cement is higher than for fly ash,
mineral impurities are carried away in variability can be extreme for different usually in the range of 25 to 35 percent
the flue gases, solidifying into spherical classes of fly ash, for the same class of the total cementitious materials for
glassy particles. These particles, being of fly ash from different sources, and paving concrete, although it can be
roughly the same size as cement grains, even for fly ash produced at the same used in much higher amounts (ACPA
are collected by electrostatic precipitators electrical plant given that coal sources, 2003, Taylor et al. 2006). Furthermore,
or bag filters. burning techniques, and environmental slag creates very light-colored, highly-
technologies are changing rapidly. These reflective concrete that some find
In 2011, it was estimated that nearly 60
differences and variability must be aesthetically pleasing and that may help
million tons of fly ash were produced
recognized in design and construction reduce the urban heat island effect.
in the US, of which 38 percent was
and rigorous testing of fly ash must be Additional features of paving concrete
beneficially used, including 14 million
conducted on a frequent basis to ensure made with slag are summarized in Tables
tons used by the cement and concrete
its continued suitability for use in 2 and 3.
industry (ACAA 2013a). Historically,
this is a decrease in both peak fly ash As an industrial by-product material,
production (approximately 76 million Slag cement is an industrial by-product slag cement will vary from source to
tons in 2002) and the peak utilization of the iron blast furnace in which pig source, but variability for a given source
rate (approximately 45 percent in 2006) iron is extracted from iron ore and the is usually very low. Often the properties
(ACAA 2013b). The main reason for remaining molten material (slag) is of the slag cement are altered slightly as
the decrease in fly ash production and directed into a granulator, in which water a result of the fineness of the grind, with
utilization was the economic slowdown quenches the material to form glassy, more finely-ground slag cement being
but, as will be discussed, other pressures sand-like particles of amorphous oxides more reactive.
exist that will likely reduce fly ash of calcium, aluminum, magnesium, and
Other SCMs, including silica fume
availability in the future. iron (the typical composition is shown in
and natural pozzolans, are sometimes
Table 1). These particles are then ground
Fly ash varies in composition and used in concrete paving. Silica fume
to a similar size as, or slightly finer than,
mineralogy as a result of the source of (specified under AASHTO M 307) is an
portland cement.
coal, how it is burned, and how the ash ultrafine non-crystalline silica by-product
cools. AASHTO M 295 classifies fly ash Slag cement is reactive, either slowly of the production of silicon metals
as either a Class C fly ash or a Class F in the presence of water alone or more and ferrosilicon alloys that is a highly-
fly ash based primarily on composition, vigorously when activated in water in the reactive pozzolan, often used in high-
where Class F fly ash has a minimum presence of sodium hydroxide or calcium performance and ultra-high-performance
combined silicon dioxide, aluminum hydroxide. The latter is the condition concrete (UHPC). Concrete containing
oxide, and iron oxide content of 70 present in the pore solution of hydrating more than a few percent replacement is
percent whereas Class C fly ash has portland cement and, thus, the two react often difficult to work with and silica
between 50 and 70 percent. Class F fly in a complementary manner. fume is significantly higher in cost than
ash will typically have less calcium oxide portland cement, so its use is often
Similar to the use of fly ash, the use
than Class C, but no limit on calcium restricted to applications that demand
of slag cement has decreased with the
oxide is established in the specification. high strengths and/or low permeability.
economic downturn in the later part
The differences in composition and of the first decade in the twenty-first Natural pozzolans represent a family of
mineralogy are reflected in Table 1 and century. However, this may have turned SCMs produced from natural mineral
in the properties of fresh and hardened around as a number of iron furnaces deposits or biomass. Some of these
concrete as shown in Tables 2 and 3, restarted operations in 2010. The minerals, such as volcanic ash, are similar
respectively. Typical dosage rates for Class domestic availability of slag, in general, to what was used in ancient Rome to
F fly ash for paving concrete are 15 to is in decline in the US due to closure of construct the Pantheon and aqueducts
25 percent by mass of total cementitious a number of US blast furnaces and a lack and can be used with only minimal
materials, whereas they are slightly higher of construction of new furnaces. As of processing. Others require calcination
for Class C fly ash at 15 to 40 percent 2011, there were only four granulators through heat treatment.
(Taylor et al. 2006). installed at active blast furnaces in the
More recently there have been efforts
US (USGS 2011).

Sustainability with SCMs and Blended Cements

to derive commercially-viable natural Blended Cements pozzolan, slag, or limestone (either

pozzolans from biomass such as rice P for pozzolan, S for slag cement,
Blended cements, specified under
husks but, as of yet, this effort has not or L for limestone) that is present in
AASHTO M 240 (ASTM C 595),
become commercially viable. In the US, the larger amount by mass and the
Standard Specification for Blended
interest in natural pozzolans is rising due B refers to the additional material,
Hydraulic Cements, are produced by
to uncertainty regarding supplies of fly either P for pozzolan, S for slag
cement manufacturers through either
ash and slag cement. American Concrete cement, or L for limestone that is
intergrinding or blending portland
Institute (ACI) 232.1R, Use of Raw or present in the lesser amount. The X
cement with fly ash, natural pozzolans,
Processed Natural Pozzolans in Concrete and Y refer to targeted percentage
slag cement, and/or limestone. The
(2012) provides an excellent synopsis on of mass for constituent A and B,
blended cement can be a binary system,
the history and use of natural pozzolans respectively. For example, a material
made with portland cement and one
in concrete. designated as Type IT(S25)(P15)
other material, or a ternary combination
contains 60 percent portland cement,
Summarizing, when replacing cement of portland cement and two other
25 percent slag cement, and 15
with SCMs (e.g., fly ash or slag cement) materials, classified as follows:
percent pozzolan. If the percentages
on a mass basis, an increase in paste
Type IP(X) The P indicates that this of the SCMs are the same, the
volume occurs due to the lower specific
is portland-pozzolan cement in which materials are listed in alphabetical
gravity of SCMs compared to portland
X denotes the targeted percentage of order, i.e., Type IT(L10)(S35) which
cement. This in turn results in improved
pozzolan (which can constitute up has 55 percent portland cement, 10
workability and slightly-reduced water
to 40 percent by mass of the blended percent limestone, and 35 percent
demand. One potential negative effect
cement) expressed as a whole number slag cement. Two different pozzolans
of SCM use on fresh concrete is that
by mass of the final blended cement. can also be blended together to
SCMs often result in a reduction in
For example, a Type IP(20) is a create a Type IT(PX)(PY). In no case
air-entraining efficiency, so this must be
blended portland-pozzolan cement can the percent limestone exceed
monitored carefully during construction.
that contains 20 percent pozzolan. 15 percent by mass of the blended
Most SCMs (other than some Class cement, and the combined pozzolan
Type IS(X) The S indicates that this
C fly ashes) will result in a significant percentage cannot exceed 40 percent.
is portland-slag cement in which X
reduction in the heat of hydration, Furthermore, the combined mass of
denotes the targeted percentage of
which can be used effectively in the limestone, pozzolan, and slag cement
slag cement (which can constitute up
summer to reduce built-in curl and shall be less than 70 percent by mass
to 95 percent by mass of the blended
early-age cracking. On the other hand, of the blended cement.
cement) expressed as a whole number
the lower heat of hydration can result
by mass of the final blended cement. Typical replacement rates for blended
in increased setting time, particularly
Thus, for example, a Type IS(35) is cements are 10 to 12 percent for Type
during cold weather placements, which
blended portland-slag cement that IL, 15 to 25 percent for Type IP, and 30
increases the risk of plastic shrinkage
contains 35 percent slag cement. to 50 percent for Type IS (based on Van
cracking. Along these same lines, early
Dam and Smith 2011). The composition
strength gain is generally retarded when Type IL(X) The L indicates that
of a Type IT can vary significantly
using most SCMs, but the long-term this is portland-limestone cement
depending on the characteristics of the
strength gain is increased. And, finally, in which X denotes the targeted
various SCMs used.
most SCMs reduce permeability and percentage of limestone (which can
chloride ion ingress in concrete and can constitute up to 15 percent by mass In addition to the above designations,
be used to effectively mitigate alkali-silica of the blended cement) expressed as blended cements can be further labeled
reactivity (ASR) (Thomas et al. 2008) a whole number by mass of the final with the following suffixes:
and sulfate attack (ACI 2008). Class C blended cement. Thus, for example, a
A to indicate air-entrained material
fly ashes can be the exception to some Type IL(12) is blended portland-slag
of these improvements. In all cases, cement that contains 12 percent slag MS or HS to indicate moderate or
thorough testing should be conducted cement. high sulfate resistance, respectively
throughout the mixture proportioning MH or LH to indicate moderate or
Type IT(AX)(BY) The T indicates
and construction phases of the project low heat of hydration
that this is ternary blended cement
to ensure that the concrete containing
in which the A refers to the type of
SCMs is performing as desired.

Sustainability with SCMs and Blended Cements

Type IL portland-limestone cements IL cements can be used similarly to into concrete, reducing the chance of
were added to AASHTO M 240 in AASHTO M 85 and other AASHTO corrosion of embedded steel.
2012 and thus are relatively new to the M 240 cements in the construction of
And, finally, SCMs such as fly ash and
market. This followed the allowance of concrete pavements (Thomas et al. 2010,
slag are industrial by-products, meaning
intergrinding portland cement clinker Van Dam et al. 2010).
they are taken from the waste stream
with up to 5 percent limestone allowed
in AASHTO M 85 since 2007. Advantages of Using of other industries. By diverting these
materials from a landfill and beneficially
Portland-limestone cements have been
SCMs and Blended using them to replace the energy
used in Europe for more than 25 years, Cements and CO2-intensive portland cement,
with the most popular type of cement Concrete paving mixtures made with significant environmental savings
used in Europe containing up to 20 SCMs and blended cements have are realized (Van Dam et al. 2012).
percent limestone. Canada approved many advantages over concrete made Combined with better economy and
the use of portland-limestone cements with portland cement alone. Although increased longevity, SCM use results
containing up to 15 percent limestone economic savings are often realized in marked improvement in the overall
in 2009. The 15 percent limit is in place when replacing portland cement with sustainability of a concrete pavement.
to ensure the portland-limestone cement SCMs, shortages of the most desirable
performs similarly to conventional SCMs have developed in some markets
Adding SCMs to
portland cement and blended cements. in recent years, pushing prices of many Concrete
At this replacement level, it is estimated SCMs upward. Thus, it can no longer It is common in the US for the concrete
that the use of portland-limestone be assumed that concrete mixtures supplier to blend portland cement
cement reduces CO2 emissions by up to containing SCMs will cost less on an with SCMs at the concrete plant. This
10 percent compared to conventional initial cost basis. The real economic requires the use of at least two cement
portland cement (CAC 2009). savings are obtained over the lifecycle, bins. The advantage of this approach
Although the use of Type IL cement as the enhancements in workability, is that it is very simple for the concrete
reduces CO2 emissions, there are other ultimate strength, and durability producer to alter the replacement level
advantages as well. Limestone is softer often result in improved long-term of the SCM batch-to-batch, providing
than clinker and, thus, when the two performance and reduced lifecycle costs. considerable flexibility to serve multiple
are interground, the resulting limestone This is especially true if there is a risk clients over the course of the year. The
particles are finer than the clinker of certain materials-related distresses addition of a third cement bin provides
particles. This results in improved such as ASR or sulfate attack. In many the opportunity to make ternary blends
particle distribution and packing and the cases, high-quality SCMs are the only if filled with another SCM.
fine limestone particles act as dispersed cost-effective means to mitigate harmful The main disadvantage of adding
nucleation sites for the formation of deleterious reactions, which is a fact the SCM at the concrete plant is one
hydration products. This results in well documented in practice (Taylor of control in both the quality of the
a dense microstructure as hydration et al. 2006, Thomas et al. 2008, ACI material and in the amount of SCM
proceeds. 2008). For example, the use of low added. Concrete suppliers rely almost
In addition, the limestone is not calcium oxide (CaO) fly ash (CaO exclusively on the SCM supplier to
chemically inert, reacting with the < 18 percent) and/or slag cement is ensure the quality of the product. At
aluminate phases present in portland recognized as a prescriptive treatment of times, quality can vary significantly
cement and many SCMs to create ASR in the most recent Federal Highway enough to have a profound impact on
carboaluminate phases (Matschei et Administration (FHWA) guidelines the fresh and/or hardened properties of
al. 2007). Cement manufacturers can (Thomas et al. 2008). Guidance in the concrete, yet still remain within the
optimize the chemical and physical ACI 201.2R shows the effectiveness of requirements of the given standard. This
properties of Type IT blended cement using SCMs and/or blended cements is a greater issue for fly ash, which has
to achieve equivalent, or even improved, to mitigate external sulfate attack (ACI more variability than slag cement, and
performance to that obtained using 2008). Guidance on the use of SCMs to can result in unexpected interactions
conventional AASHTO M 85 portland prevent ASR is provided in AASHTO that can affect setting, air content, and
cement. Several North American field PP65-11. It is also well demonstrated strength (Taylor et al. 2006).
studies have demonstrated that Type that SCMs are extremely effective at
reducing the ingress of chloride ions

Sustainability with SCMs and Blended Cements

Issues regarding control also impact Current trends suggest that coal will that are used to enhance performance
the amount of SCM added to the slowly be replaced by cleaner-burning while reducing cost and environmental
concrete, either through operator error or and abundant natural gas as the preferred impact.
equipment failure. This can have serious fossil fuel in a number of US power
This document discusses how these
consequences. For example, too much plants. Furthermore, those power
materials influence concrete performance
SCM could result in problems with early plants that continue to burn coal are
and how they are specified in the US for
strength gain, yet not enough SCM under pressure to reduce emissions of
use in binary and ternary combinations.
could increase the risk of ASR if the mercury and sulfur dioxide, either by
SCM were being used for mitigation. changing coal sources or by employing References
technologies that can result in harmful
When the pozzolan, slag cement, and/ ACAA. 2013a. ACAA 2011 CCP
contamination of the fly ash, either
or limestone are interground or blended Survey Results. American Coal
through the addition of activated carbon
by the cement supplier under AASHTO Ash Association. http://www.
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M 240, there is a greater level of quality
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potential for unforeseen interactions and iron ore is in general decline in the US, March 4, 2013.)
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In addition, the use of AASHTO M available for granulation.
Use Charts. American Coal Ash
240 blended cements helps to avoid the
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exists regarding the availability of the com/associations/8003/files/1966-
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enhance batch-to-batch uniformity,
decade to come. On a positive side, work pdf. (Accessed March 4, 2013.)
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sources that might be able to fill a void
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ACI. 2012. ACI 232.1R Use of Raw
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or Processed Natural Pozzolans in
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smelting iron ore in the case of blast supplementary cementitious materials
furnace slag.

Sustainability with SCMs and Blended Cements

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publication are not necessarily those of the sponsors.
Iowa State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity,
genetic information, sex, marital status, disability, or status as a U.S. veteran. Inquiries can be directed to the Director of Equal Opportunity
and Compliance, 3280 Beardshear Hall, (515) 294-7612.