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Construction and Building Materials 49 (2013) 807–813

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Effect of steam curing cycles on strength and durability of SCC: A case

study in precast concrete
A.A. Ramezanianpour, M.H. Khazali ⇑, P. Vosoughi
Department of Civil and Environment Engineering, Concrete Technology and Durability Research Center, Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran

h i g h l i g h t s

 Effects of 36 steam curing regimes on the compressive strength of SCC were studied.
 Permeability of steam-cured concrete was investigated.
 An optimum steam curing cycle was introduced.

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Use of Self-Compacting Concrete (SCC) in pre-cast concrete plants is growing rapidly due to its benefits
Received 25 July 2013 such as reduction in labor and equipment costs, increasing productivity, providing flexibility in filling
Received in revised form 20 August 2013 highly reinforced sections and complex formworks, lowering the noise on job site and having superior
Accepted 27 August 2013
surface quality. Also, considering the critical importance of ‘‘production time’’ in precast plants, acceler-
Available online 27 September 2013
ated curing is considered as an inevitable part of precast concrete elements production.
In this study the effects of thirty-six different steam-curing regimes on the compressive strength and
permeability of a self-compacting concrete mixture, used in precast concrete elements of Sadr elevated
Steam curing
Self-Compacting Concrete (SCC)
highway was investigated. Compressive strength measurements indicated that in a constant total time,
Compressive strength increase in precuring period leads to lower immediate compressive strength. On the other hand, increase
Surface resistivity in treatment temperature and total cycle time (which means higher energy and time consumption) led to
Capillary absorption higher immediate compressive strength. Furthermore, durability tests results demonstrated that applica-
Energy consumption tion of cycles with maximum temperature of 70 °C imposes negative effect on durability properties of ref-
erence SCC, such as surface resistivity and capillary absorption. Finally, on the basis of three criteria
(compressive strength, permeability and energy consumption by steam curing cycle), an optimum steam
curing cycle was introduced and utilized in the precast concrete plant.
Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction forms, and to shorten the curing period [5]. Special techniques
are available to this aim including: (I) Using special cements with
Self-Consolidating Concrete (SCC) has some advantages over high early strength such as fine or high alumina ones (II) Utilizing
conventional concrete making it suitable for use in pre-cast/pre- suitable chemical additives (III) Use of accelerated curing (includ-
stressed concrete plants. These advantages include high workabil- ing increased temperature and humidity).
ity (making it possible to omit vibration), reduction of labor costs, According to economy, availability, and long-term performance
making feasible to develop more automated plants, and often pos- of special materials, the most common method is accelerated cur-
sessing higher strength and durability properties. Three essential ing by means of increased temperature and humidity. Various
characteristics of fresh SCC are filling ability, passing ability, and methods have been used including steam curing at atmospheric
segregation resistance which make it an ideal choice for use in ele- pressure (temperature less than 100 °C), steam curing at high pres-
ments with dense reinforcement or complex geometry [1–4]. sure (autoclaving), electrical heating of reinforcement, imposing
There are some reasons such as limitation of formworks, facili- electrical current to concrete directly, and microwave heating.
ties, storage area, and time which encourage precast concrete Among these, steam curing at low pressure is most common, espe-
plants to obtain high early strength, to speed up the stripping of cially for large precast units. A typical steam-curing cycle consists
of a precuring (delay) period after surface finishing, a heating and
cooling rate of 11–44 °C/h, and a treatment period with constant
⇑ Corresponding author. Tel./fax: +98 21 64543074.
temperature for 6–18 h. Maximum treatment temperature in
E-mail address: (M.H. Khazali).

0950-0618/$ - see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
808 A.A. Ramezanianpour et al. / Construction and Building Materials 49 (2013) 807–813

steam curing is usually limited to 60–90 °C [6–10]. The minimum (1) Maximum temperature of treatment (50, 60, and 70 °C).
early compressive strength of concrete, the most important factor (2) Total time of steam curing, which is desired to be at the min-
for demolding of concrete elements, is suggested about 25 MPa for imum value, while achieving the required compressive
the most cases. Also, the ultimate strength of concrete in plants is strength (8, 10, 12, and 14 h).
commonly considered to be more than 50 MPa [9,10]. Some of (3) Delay period before commencing the steam curing (1, 2, and
common formworks of segments utilized in precast concrete pla- 3 h).
net of Sadr elevated highway are illustrated in Fig. 1.
Generally, the maximum total duration of the steam curing Also, it is to be mentioned that two main constraints were im-
cycle in a plant is limited to 18 h, since the production is carried posed by the design and project management team, and were con-
out 24-h and enough time should be available to prepare the form- sidered in this experimental study:
work and the arrangement of the reinforcements to continue the
daily production procedure. Besides, it is already shown that (1) A minimum of 24 MPa was required for demolding of pre-
continuing a definite steam curing regime for longer hours can lead cast concrete elements.
to detrimental changes in porosity and pore size distribution of (2) A maximum steam curing duration of 14 h was allowed.
concrete [11]. (3) Finally, on the basis of three criteria (compressive strength,
Nowadays, durability of concrete structures is widely believed permeability and energy consumption by steam curing
to be major concern and much research work is carried out on this cycle), an optimum steam curing cycle was introduced and
issue. Mehta and Gerwick [12] investigated the San Mateo bridge utilized in the precast concrete plant.
over San Francisco bay after being exposed for 17 years in the envi-
2. Experimental program
ronment; the bridge is comprised of both steam-cured and moist-
cured concrete beams with the same mixture proportions and 2.1. Materials
materials. The study demonstrated that steam-cured beams had
to be repaired according to corrosion damage, while moist-cured The cement used was ASTM C150/C150M-11 [21] Type II Portland cement.
beams showed no signs of deterioration. Other studies [13,14] Limestone powder was also used as filler. The chemical composition and physical
characteristics of Portland cement and limestone filler are listed in Table 1.
illustrated that accelerated curing by excessively increased tem-
Natural sand and crushed gravel were used as aggregates. The coarse aggregates
perature leads to porous concrete with coarse and continuous pore had nominal maximum size of 19 mm, specific gravity of 2.6 gr/cm3, and water
structure, and heterogeneous distribution of hydration products. absorption of 1.5%. The fine aggregates had specific gravity of 2.3 gr/cm3, absorption
Consequently, it increases the permeability of concrete against of 2.7%, and fineness modulus of 3.6. The high fineness modulus indicates the low
content of fines in the fine aggregates. Therefore, it was decided to add limestone
aggressive ions such as chlorides or sulfates, and decreases the
filler (150 kg/m3) with a maximum particle size of 0.15 mm to compensate for
strength of concrete. Moreover, it can cause initial decomposing the lack of fine particles in the local river sand and also to improve the mixture rhe-
of ettringite in fresh concrete, which can recreate Delayed Ettring- ological characteristics [22,23]. The specific gravity of the limestone filler was
ite Formation (DEF) in hardened concrete and produce destructive 2.48 gr/cm3. The sieve analyses of fine, coarse and final mixture of aggregates used
expansion [15–18]. in the concrete are listed in Table 2.
Moreover, a polycarboxylate-ether type High-Range Water Reducer Admixture
To the authors’ knowledge, limited research work is carried out
(HRWRA) with a specific gravity of 1.1 gr/cm3 and solids content of 47% was con-
on the effects of steam curing on the durability of SCC. Bingöl and sumed to achieve the required workability for the mixtures.
Tohumcu [19] compared the compressive strength of SCC mixtures
cured in the standard situation, by air, and by exposure to steam; 2.2. Mixture proportions
the results demonstrated that concrete cured in air had the lowest
strength, and the optimum temperature of steam curing is 70 °C. The mix proportions were selected exactly the same as the reference SCC mix-
ture which was used in the precast concrete plant. These proportions were already
Moreover, Reinhardt and Stegmaier [20] studied the pore size dis- selected based on a comprehensive study of local materials and evaluation of a var-
tribution of steam cured SCC; it made clear that higher maximum ious number of mixtures regarding fresh and hardened properties. The mix propor-
temperature leads to coarser pores, and the changes are correlated tions and properties of the reference SCC mixture are listed in Tables 3 and 4,
to (w/c)eq. respectively.
In order to study the effects of different steam curing cycles, 36 batches were
The object of this study is to investigate the effects of steam cur-
prepared according to the reference SCC mix proportions. In order to control the
ing on the properties of limestone incorporated SCC, which is used variations and provide the maximum similarity between mixes, ‘‘slump flow diam-
in a precast plant in Tehran, Iran. For this purpose, compressive eter’’ and ‘‘28-day compressive strength of water cured specimens’’ were measured
strength and permeability (in terms of surface resistivity and cap- each time. In order to consider a mixture as ‘‘acceptable’’, 28-day compressive
illary absorption) of the reference SCC mixture were investigated strength of control specimens had to be in the range of ±5% of reference SCC mix-
ture (59 MPa). Furthermore, slump flow diameter had to be in the range of 680–
after exposure to 36 different steam curing cycles. Three main 700 mm while HRWRA dosage was maintained between 0.75 to 0.85 percentages
parameters were selected as variables: of cement mass. If either condition was not satisfied for a mixture, it was considered
as ‘‘rejected’’ and another batch was prepared and tested.

Fig. 1. Precast concrete element made with self-compacting concrete for Sadr elevated highway, Tehran, Iran.
A.A. Ramezanianpour et al. / Construction and Building Materials 49 (2013) 807–813 809

Table 1 Table 5
Materials properties. Steam curing regimes.

Chemical composition (%) Cement Limestone filler No. Curing Precuring Peak Total time Energy index
regime ID period (h) temp. (°C) of steam (min  °C)
CaO 62.08 50.17
curing (h)
SiO2 21.10 3.12
Al2O3 4.18 1.19 CTL – – – –
Fe2O3 3.34 0.53 1 T50-1-8 1 50 8 180
MgO 3.79 3.46 2 T50-1-10 50 10 240
SO3 2.84 0.20 3 T50-1-12 50 12 300
K2O 0.69 0.25 4 T50-1-14 50 14 360
Na2O 0.14 – 5 T50-2-8 2 50 8 180
(Na2O)eq 0.59 6 T50-2-10 50 10 240
Loss on ignition (%) 3.12 40.31 7 T50-2-12 50 12 300
8 T50-2-14 50 14 360
Physical properties
9 T50-3-8 3 50 8 180
Specific gravity (gr/cm3) 3.17 2.48
10 T50-3-10 50 10 240
Blaine (cm2/g) 3519 –
11 T50-3-12 50 12 300
12 T50-3-14 50 14 360
13 T60-1-8 1 60 8 240
Table 2
14 T60-1 -10 60 10 320
Sieve analysis of aggregates (cumulative percentage passing).
15 T60-1-12 60 12 400
Sieve size (mm) River sand Gravel Aggregate mixture 16 T60-1-14 60 14 480
17 T60-2-8 2 60 8 240
19 100.0 100 100
18 T60-2-10 60 10 320
12.5 100.0 62.6 89.3
19 T60-2-12 60 12 400
9.5 100.0 38.3 82.4
20 T60-2-14 60 14 480
4.75 92.8 1.1 67.1
21 T60-3-8 3 60 8 240
2.38 63.6 0.4 47.9
22 T60-3-10 60 10 320
1.19 40.6 0 32.8
23 T60-3-12 60 12 400
0.6 26.3 0 22.9
24 T60-3-14 60 14 480
0.3 13.3 0 13.6
25 T70-1-8 1 70 8 300
0.15 4.0 0 6.5
26 T70-1-10 70 10 400
27 T70-1-12 70 12 500
28 T70-1-14 70 14 600
Table 3 29 T70-2-8 2 70 8 300
Mix proportions of reference SCC mixture. 30 T70-2-10 70 10 400
31 T70-2-12 70 12 500
Constituent Quantity 32 T70-2-14 70 14 600
33 T70-3-8 3 70 8 300
Cement (kg/m3) 400
34 T70-3-10 70 10 400
Filler (kg/m3) 150
35 T70-3-12 70 12 500
Sand (kg/m3) 921
36 T70-3-14 70 14 600
Gravel (kg/m3) 714
Water (kg/m3) 156
w/c 0.39
HRWRAa (%) 0.8
temperature was kept constant at 20 °C, while any temperature variation (heating
Superplasticizer percentage is presented by Portland cement mass. and cooling) occurred during constant period of 2 h.
It is common knowledge that decreasing the steam curing duration is highly de-
sired in the large scale production of precast elements, since it leads to lower produc-
The SCC mixtures were produced in a horizontal pan mixer with 100 l capacity. tion cost and also higher productivity. In this study, a maximum allowable steam
A specific mixing sequence was applied for all mixtures; which consisted of dry curing duration of 14 h was imposed by precast plant project management team.
mixing the coarse and fine aggregates, limestone filler and Portland cement for In addition, ‘‘Energy Index’’ was defined as the multiply of time by extra tem-
1 min. Then the whole water was added to the dry mixture and mixed for 2 min. perature (above ambient temperature which was considered 20 °C) during each
Finally, the HRWRA was introduced to the mixture and mixed for another 2 min. steam curing regime. This was used as an indicator of the energy consumption by
After testing the fresh mixture for being self-compactible, cylinder and cube spec- each cycle.
imens were cast without using any vibration. High-accuracy automatic climate simulators were used to impose various
steam curing cycles on SCC specimens (see Fig. 2). The devices are capable of con-
trolling both ‘‘humidity’’ and ‘‘temperature’’ in the range of 20 °C to +120 °C with
2.3. Steam curing regimes high accuracy. Also, the results ofactual humidity and temperature values during
the steam curing cycle are reported in MS-Excel format.
In order to study the effects of different steam curing cycles on the hardened
properties of reference SCC mixture, three parameters were selected as variables:
2.4. Tests procedures
(1) Precuring (delay) period.
(2) Peak temperature. 100  100  100 mm cubic specimens were tested for compressive strength
(3) Total time of steam curing. immediately after steam curing cycle and at the ages of 7 and 28 days. Furthermore,
maturity index (ASTM C1074 [24]) was utilized to study the effect of temperature–
Considering the precast factory limitations, values were assigned to the param- time history on compressive strength of steam cured specimens. This value was cal-
eters and 36 different steam curing regimes were designed (see Table 5). Precuring culated using:

Table 4
Properties of reference SCC mixture.

Fresh properties Hardened properties (water cured specimens)

Wet density (kg/m3) 2370 Slump flow at 45 min (mm) 550 1-Day compressive strength (MPa) 17
Slump flow-Avg. of two diameters (mm) 690 U-box (mm) 10 3-Day compressive strength(MPa) 35
T50 (s) 2.5 J-ring (h2–h1) (mm) 5 7-Day compressive strength(MPa) 48
V-funnel (s) 9 L-box (%) 0.85 28-Day compressive strength(MPa) 59
V-funnel at 15min (s) 14
810 A.A. Ramezanianpour et al. / Construction and Building Materials 49 (2013) 807–813

Fig. 2. Automatic climate simulator devices used for steam curing of specimens.

Table 6 3. Results and discussion

Permeability classes based on surface resistivity by FM 5-578[27].

Chloride ion permeability Surface resistivity (kX cm) 3.1. Compressive strength and maturity index
High <12
Moderate 12–21 The compressive strength test was conducted on 100 mm cube
Low 21–37 specimens immediately after steam curing and at the ages of 7 and
Very low 37–254 28 days. The results are presented in Figs. 4–6.
Negligible >254
As observed in Fig. 4, increase in precuring period has led to
lower immediate compressive strength values. For instance, con-
sidering the total cycle time of 8 h, 2 h increase in delay time has
t brought about 5 MPa decrease in immediate strength of reference
MðtÞ ¼ ðT a  T 0 ÞDt ð1Þ SCC mixture. Furthermore, as expected, increase in temperature
and total cycle time (which means higher energy and time con-
sumption) led to higher immediate compressive strength. This is
where M(t) is the temperature–time factor at age (t), degree-days or degree-hour; Dt
is a time interval, days or hours; Ta is average concrete temperature during time due to the accelerated hydration reactions and rapid formation of
interval, °C; T0 is datum temperature, °C. It is commonly assumed equal to 10 °C Calcium–Silica–Hydrate, C–S–H gel, the most important bind
[24]. phase in hardened concrete [30] in the presence of moisture and
Capillary absorption was carried out at 28 days age. The capillary absorption high temperature.
rate of specimens were calculated using their weight after 48 h being in 110 °C as
Also, the average ratio of initial compressive strength to 28-day
initial weight, and the measured weight after 72 h of being partly in contact with
the water (on side exposed to water at 5 mm depth) [25]. compressive strength is calculated as 39%, 46% and 53% at the max-
Electrical resistivity is one of the intrinsic specifications of concrete which can imum temperatures of 50 °C, 60 °C and 70 °C, respectively. By tak-
be related to its permeability. In 1915, Wenner [26] presented a practical method to ing 28-day results into account, it proves that increasing the
measure the earth electrical surface resistivity by means of a four probes apparatus
maximum cycle temperature has negative effect on compressive
which for the first time, has been standardized to use on concrete in 2004 [27].
Since it is a non-destructive, rapid, low-cost, and reliable method, it is a wide-ac-
strength of concrete at later ages, while it improves the immediate
cepted technique to investigate durability properties of concrete. Electrical resistiv- strength after curing.
ity refers to the resistance that any electrical charge experiences while passing Figs. 5 and 6 illustrate the strength measurements for the spec-
through the concrete. The increased electrical resistivity of concrete impedes the imens exposed to cycles with maximum temperatures of 60 °C and
movement of electrons from the anodic to the cathode regions, and consequently
70 °C, respectively. The same immediate strength pattern as for
delays the propagation of the corrosion process[28]. As presented in Table 6, FM
5-578 test method [27] defines chloride ion permeability ratings according to the 50 °C cycles is observed for these cycles, too. Considering the
surface resistivity test results. strength development until the 7 days age, it is observed that in-
The electrical resistivity meter (Fig. 3) was used to measure the surface resistiv- crease in total cycle time reduces the strength development during
ity of specimens at the ages of 1, 7, and 28 days age. Three saturated 100  200 mm
cylinders were tested at each age. The test was carried out by the four-point Wen-
ner array probe technique [29].

Fig. 4. Relative compressive strength values ofthe cycles with 50 °Cpeak temper-
Fig. 3. Electrical resistivity meter. ature (Mean values are presented in MPa).
A.A. Ramezanianpour et al. / Construction and Building Materials 49 (2013) 807–813 811

Fig. 7. Results of compressive strength versus maturity index after accomplishment

Fig. 5. Relative compressive strength values ofthe cycles with 60 °Cpeak temper- of steam curing.
ature (mean values are presented in MPa).

Table 7
Relationship between maturity index and compressive strength.

A B R2
Total data 174 866 0.77
Max. temp. 50 144 699 0.88
Max. temp. 60 155 740 0.88
Max. temp. 70 172 823 0.91

Fig. 6. Relative compressive strength values ofthe cycles with 70 °C peak temper-
ature (Mean values are presented in MPa).

this period. On the other hand, strength development from 7 to

28 days of age is approximately the same for different cycles.
Among all 36 steam curing cycles, ‘‘T70-2-14’’ led to the highest
Fig. 8. Influence of steam curing regimes on surface resistivity (peak
immediate compressive strength (36 MPa), while maximum 28-
temperature = 50 °C).
day compressive strength was measured for SCC specimens which
were exposed to ‘‘T60–3-10’’ cycle (approximately 64 MPa).
Considering the obtained results and the fact that a minimum of
24 MPa was required for demolding of precast concrete elements, 3.2. Surface resistivity
it was decided not to carry out the durability tests on specimens
which were exposed to cycles with total duration of 8 h. In fact, The effect of different steam curing cycles on surface resistivity
the strength measurements demonstrated that none of these cy- is illustrated in Figs. 8–10. Considering the values measured
cles developed the requiredminimum strength after exposure to shortly after steam curing (1-day results) at 50 °C, it seems that to-
steam curing. tal cycle period has minor effect on the resistivity value, since a
Maturity index was proposed earlier as a technique to account maximum 7% variation is measured between cycles of the same
for combined effect of time and temperature on the compressive delay time. At higher temperatures, immediate resistivity is more
strength of concrete [31,32]. Although some modified methods sensitive to total cycle time variations. For example, as observed
are presented to increase accuracy and reliability of this method in Fig. 10, at the constant delay time of 3 h and peak temperature
for various types of concrete [33,34], using the basic equation ex- of 70 °C, a 4-h increase in total cycle period has improved the resis-
plained in ASTM C1074 [24]seems to be more reliable. Based on tivity value by 33%. It is also observed that the highest immediate
the data presented in Fig. 7, it can be observed that logarithmic resistivity value is achieved by exposure to T70-2-14 cycle, which
relations with high R2 values rule the data. However, constant has the highest energy index (600 min  °C) among 36 designed
parameters (A and B) based on Eq. (2) presented in Table 7 show steam curing cycles.
that using a specified equation for each maximum temperature Considering the fact that all the specimens are exposed to steam
of curing is more appropriate with higher correlation coefficient curing cycles at early ages, the 28-day resistivity measurements
(R2). could be considered as the appropriate criteria for durability
assessment of reference SCC. Accordingly, it can be inferred that
Compressive Strength ¼ A  lnðMaturity IndexÞ  B ð2Þ ‘‘T60-3-10’’ is the optimum cycle regarding electrical resistivity
812 A.A. Ramezanianpour et al. / Construction and Building Materials 49 (2013) 807–813

Fig. 9. Influence of steam curing regimes on surface resistivity (peak

temperature = 60 °C).
Fig. 12. Capillary absorption percentages of steam curing cycles with peak
temperature of 60 °C.

Fig. 10. Influence of steam curing regimes on surface resistivity (peak

temperature = 70 °C).

Fig. 13. Capillary absorption percentages of steam curing cycles with peak
temperature of 70 °C.
of reference SCC. The test result for SCC specimens which were ex-
posed to this curing cycle is measured 15.5 kX cm, which is rated
as ‘‘moderate’’ based on the chloride ion permeability classes 3.3. Capillary absorption
defined by FM 5-578 [27].
Also, an average28-day electrical resistivity of 12.2 kX cm is Capillary absorption test was carried out at the age of 28 days.
calculated for 50 °C cycles (Fig. 8), while the average values of The test results are presented in Figs. 11–13.
11.9 kX cm and 11.6 kX cm are measured for 60 °C and 70 °C cy- It is observed that at a constant peak temperature and curing
cles, respectively. Therefore, it is concluded that increasing the period, highest absorption values were measured for specimens
maximum steam curing temperature does not have any positive exposed to cycles with 1hour delay time. Furthermore, at the three
effect on surface resistivity of reference SCC; even a minor decrease peak temperatures the highest absorption values were recorded for
should be expected. 14-h long cycles, which prove the negative effect of exposure to
these cycles on capillary absorption of reference SCC.
Also, an average absorption percentage of 6.4 is calculated for
50 °C cycles, while the average value of 5.5% is measured for both
60 °C and 70 °C steam curing cycles. It proves that increase in max-
imum cycle temperature from 60 °C to 70 °C does not improve the
impermeability of reference SCC regarding capillary pores. This
finding is of high importance regarding the high energy cost, which
plays a crucial role in decision making in large scale precast plants.
Accordingly, T60-3-10 could be introduced as an optimum steam
curing regime, regarding both capillary absorption (4.3%) and
energy consumption.

4. Conclusions

In this study the effects of steam curing on compressive

strength and permeability of filler-type SCC were investigated.
Also, energy consumption was considered as a selection basis
Fig. 11. Capillary absorption percentages of steam curing cycles with peak among various steam curing cycles. The major conclusions are as
temperature of 50 °C. follows:
A.A. Ramezanianpour et al. / Construction and Building Materials 49 (2013) 807–813 813

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