Non-destructive 3D characterization of concrete alteration by X-ray micro-CT and correlation with petrographic and geotechnical properties
Concrete is a most important geomaterial as it is used for a large part in our buildings and infrastructures. According to Planetoscope (2012) its production is about 6 billion m3 per year (190 m3 each second) which makes it the most used manufactured material in the world. The alteration of concrete, tightly associated with the durability and security of our infrastructures, depends on its primary composition but also on a wide range of environmental factors (mechanical solicitations, freezing-thawing cycles, alkali-aggregate reactions, etc.). Hence, the contribution of geological or geological-related analysis to understand concrete alteration processes is required because this material is mainly composed of aggregates made of different minerals and rocks, the type and quality of which are important due to their influence on concrete behaviour. In this study, high resolution X-ray Computed tomography (X-ray micro-CT) was used to image 3D different types of concrete cores in order to characterize their respective state of alteration. The global alteration index (GAI) developed by Christe et al. (2010) for natural cataclastic rocks was applied to the segmented X-ray CT images of these concrete cores and compared to the results of microstructural analysis on thin slices and of compression tests. Also, an internal attack of concrete by hydrochloric acid was carried out in laboratory to simulate artificial alteration through carbonate dissolution and its process was monitored along time by X-ray micro-CT imaging (4D monitoring). Our first results show that X-ray CT imagery enables, without any destruction of the specimens, to characterize concrete internal features in terms of macroporosity, highly microporous cement paste, standard cement paste or aggregates. In particular, initial entrapped porosity as well as cracks are easily detected, characterised and quantified before and after mechanical testing. Petrographic analyses on thin sections enabled to verify the physical meaning of the X-ray CT-based detected features, such as the highly microporous cement paste, the opening of the microcracks and the detachment halos around aggregates which all act as weakening parameters. Despite the limited number of samples, a coherent relation between the GAI and the compressive strength of the concrete specimens is observed as the concrete compressive strength clearly decreases when the GAI increases. In this case, it logically means that the concrete with a higher porosity is less resistant. Moreover, the 4D monitoring of the acidic attack test led to dynamically show how the carbonated structure of the concrete was progressively altered. These preliminary results demonstrate that GAI, based on XRCT imagery analysis, can be used to evaluate the degree of alteration of concrete and could thus lead to estimate its strength. In more general terms, X-ray CT analysis opens new perspectives to relate the quality of concrete with its mechanical properties. This method could probably be further applied to a wide range of problems related to the inspection and maintenance of concrete infrastructures.