What causes differences of C-S-H gel grey levels in backscattered electron images?
Backscattered electron (BSE) images of heat-cured concretes show alite grains surrounded by inner C-S-H gel of two distinct grey levels (referred to as two-tone inner C-S-H gel). The lighter rim forms at elevated temperature whereas the darker rim develops during subsequent exposure to moisture at 20 °C. This microstructural feature can potentially be used as an indicator to assess the curing history of a concrete. However, microstructural examinations of room-temperature concretes containing silica fume or which have been exposed to severe conditions (external sulfate, carbonation) also show distinct rims of two-tone inner C-S-H gel. The chemical compositions of the rims were determined by EDX microanalysis in the scanning electron microscope (SEM). Our results show that for heat-cured samples, the different grey levels of the two-tone inner C-S-H are caused by relative differences in microporosity and water content and not by ones in chemical composition. However, in silica-fume blended concrete, sulfate attacked or carbonated specimens the different grey levels of the two-tone inner C-S-H gel were associated with significant differences in chemical composition. This difference allows two-tone inner C-S-H gel arising from heat curing to be distinguished from that arising from these other causes. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.