Electrochemical characterization and time-variant structural reliability assessment of post-tensioned, segmental concrete bridges



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In post-tensioned (PT) bridges, prestressing steel tendons are the major load carrying components. These tendons consist of strands, ducts, and cementitious grout that fill the interstitial space between the strands and ducts. However, inspections on PT bridges have reported the presence of voids, moisture, and chlorides inside grouted ducts as the major cause of accelerated corrosion of strands. Corrosion of the strands has resulted in PT bridge failures in Europe and tendon failures in the United States. As most of the PT bridges have high importance measures and the consequences of failure are significant, it is important to maintain high levels of safety and serviceability for these bridges. To meet this goal, bridge management authorities are in dire need of tools to quantify the long-term performance of these bridges. Time-variant structural reliability models can be useful tools to quantify the long-term performance of PT bridges. This doctoral dissertation presents the following results obtained from a comprehensive experimental and analytical program on the performance of PT bridges.

  1. Electrochemical characteristics of PT systems
  2. Probabilistic models for tension capacity of PT strands and wires exposed to various void and environmental conditions
  3. Time-variant structural reliability models (based on bending moment and stress limit states) for PT bridges
  4. Time-variant strength and service reliabilities of a typical PT bridge experiencing HS20 and HL93 loading conditions and different exposure conditions for a period of 75 years The experimental program included exposure of strand specimens to wet-dry and continuous-atmospheric conditions. These strand specimens were fabricated to mimic void and/or grout-air-strand (GAS) conditions inside the tendons. It was found that the GAS interface plays a major role in strand corrosion. The GAS interfaces that are typically located in the anchorage zones of harped PT girders or vertical PT columns can cause aggressive strand corrosion. At these locations, if voids are present and the environment is relatively dry, then limited corrosion of the strands occurs. However, if the presence of high relative humidity or uncontaminated and chloride-contaminated water exists at these interfaces, then corrosion activity can be high. The strands were exposed for a period of 12, 16, and 21 months, after which the remaining tension capacity was determined. The analytical program included the development of probabilistic strand capacity models (based on the experimental data) and the structural reliability models. The timevariant tension capacity predicted using the developed probabilistic models were reasonably consistent with the tendon failures observed in PT bridges in Florida and Virginia. The strength reliability model was developed based on the moment capacity and demand at midspan. Service reliability model was developed based on the allowable and applied stresses at midspan. Using these models, the time-variant strength and service reliabilities of a typical PT bridge were determined based on a set of pre-defined constant and random parameters representing void, material, exposure, prestress, structural loading, and other conditions. The strength and service reliabilities of PT bridges exposed to aggressive environmental conditions can drop below the recommended values at relatively young ages. In addition, under similar conditions the service reliability drops at a faster rate than the strength reliability.