Production, Characterization, and Mechanical Behavior of Cementitious Materials Incorporating Carbon Nanofibers



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Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and carbon nanofirbers (CNFs) have excellent properties (mechanical, electrical, magnetic, etc.), which can make them effective nanoreinforcements for improving the properties of materials. The incorporation of CNT/Fs in a wide variety of materials has been researched extensively in the past decade. However, the past study on the reinforcement of cementitious materials with these nanofilaments has been limited. The findings from those studies indicate that CNT/Fs did not significantly improve the mechanical properties of cementitious materials. Two major parameters influence the effectiveness of any discrete inclusion in composite material: The dispersion quality of the inclusions and the interfacial bond between the inclusions and matrix. The main focus of this dissertation is on the dispersion factor, and consists of three main tasks: First a novel thermodynamic-based method for dispersion quantification was developed. Second, a new method, incorporating the utilization of silica fume, was devised to improve and stabilize the dispersion of CNFs in cement paste. And third, the dispersion quantification method and mechanical testing were employed to measure, compare, and correlate the dispersion and mechanical properties of CNF-incorporated cement paste produced with the conventional and new methods. Finally, the main benefits, including the increase in strength and resistance to shrinkage cracking, obtained from the utilization of CNFs in cement paste will be presented. The investigations and the corresponding results show that the novel dispersion quantification method can be implemented easily to perform a wide variety of tasks ranging from measuring dispersion of nanofilaments in composites using their optical/SEM micrographs as input, to measuring the effect of cement particle/clump size on the dispersion of nano inclusions in cement paste. It was found that cement particles do not affect the dispersion of nano inclusions in cement paste significantly while the dispersion of nano inclusions can notably degenerates if the cement particles are agglomerated. The novel dispersion quantification method shows that, the dispersion of CNFs in cement paste significantly improves by utilizing silica fume. However, it was found that the dispersion of silica fume particles is an important parameter and poorly dispersed silica fume cannot enhance the overall dispersion of nano inclusions in cementitious materials. Finally, the mechanical testing and experimentations showed that CNFs, in absence of moist curing, even if poorly dispersed, can provide important benefits in terms of strength and crack resistance.