Supplementary cementitious materials were incorporated into hydrogel-based internal curing agents to improve the hydration, microstructure, and ultimately strength of internally cured high-performance cement paste. Polyacrylamide composite hydrogel particles containing amorphous silica – either silica fume or nanosilica – and two different polymer network crosslink densities were synthesized and incorporated into cement paste. The presence of silica and low crosslink density increased the absorption capacity of the particles in pore solution. Micrographs of internally cured paste indicated a significant improvement in hydrogel-related void-filling ability and an increase in void size for low crosslink density particles containing silica. Compressive strength and electrical resistivity increased at later ages for paste samples containing particles with higher silica dosage. The relationship between extent of hydration, void size, and void-filling activity was found to strongly influence the paste's long-term strength and is thus an important structure-property relationship to consider when selecting hydrogels for internal curing purposes.


This is the author accepted manuscript of B. Bose, C.R. Davis, and K.A. Erk, “Microstructural refinement of cement paste internally cured by polyacrylamide composite hydrogel particles containing silica fume and nanosilica,” Cement and Concrete Research, 143, 106400 (2021). Copyright Elsevier, this version is made available CC-BY-NC-ND, and the version of record is available at DOI: 10.1016/j.cemconres.2021.106400.

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