Internal curing of mortar through superabsorbent polymer hydrogels is explored as a solution to self-desiccation. Four different hydrogels of poly(sodium-acrylate acry- lamide) are synthesized and the impact of chemical composition on mortar is assessed with relative humidity and autogenous shrinkage testing. The hydrogels are characterized with swelling tests in different salt solutions and compression tests. Chemical composition af- fected both swelling kinetics and gel network size. Mortar containing these hydrogels had increased relative humidity and markedly reduced autogenous shrinkage. Additionally, the chemical structure of the hydrogels was found to signifcantly impact the mortar’s shrink- age. Hydrogels that quickly released most of their absorbed fuid were able to better reduce autogenous shrinkage compared to hydrogels that retained fuid for longer periods (> 4 hours), although this performance was highly sensitive to total water content. The release of absorbed water in hydrogels is most likely a function of both Laplace pressure of emptying voids and chemically-linked osmotic pressure developing from an ion concentration gradient between the hydrogels and cement pore solution. If the osmotic pressure is strong enough, the hydrogels can disperse most of the absorbed water before the depercolation of capillary porosity occurs, allowing the water to permeate the bulk of the mortar microstructure and most effectively reduce self-desiccation and autogenous shrinkage.


This is the author's accepted manuscript version of Krafcik, M.J., Erk, K.A. Characterization of superabsorbent poly(sodium-acrylate acrylamide) hydrogels and influence of chemical structure on internally cured mortar. Mater Struct 49, 4765–4778 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1617/s11527-016-0823-7


internal curing, superabsorbent polymer, ion-hydrogel interactions, autogenous shrinkage, relative humidity

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