101-0689-00L  Shrinkage and Cracking of Concrete: Mechanisms and Impact on Durability

SemesterAutumn Semester 2023
LecturersP. Lura, M. Wyrzykowski
Periodicityyearly recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish


101-0689-00 VShrinkage and Cracking of Concrete: Mechanisms and Impact on Durability2 hrs
Wed09:45-11:30HIL F 10.3 »
P. Lura, M. Wyrzykowski

Catalogue data

AbstractConcrete is generally viewed as a durable construction material. However, the long-term performance of a concrete structure can be greatly compromised by early-age cracking. This course will explain how shrinkage of concrete leads to cracking and how control of shrinkage allows increasing the expected durability of a concrete structure.
ObjectiveThis course will begin with a brief introduction about hydration and microstructure development in cement paste and concrete. The students will learn the main causes of cracking at early ages, namely plastic, drying, thermal and autogenous shrinkage, with special emphasis on the driving mechanisms. The importance of concrete curing, especially in the first few days after casting, will be stressed and explained. Building on the knowledge of the driving forces of shrinkage, the way of action of shrinkage-reducing admixtures will be clarified and different applications illustrated. As an extension of external curing, the students will become familiar with internal water curing by means of saturated lightweight aggregates and superabsorbent polymers.
Most concrete members are restrained by adjacent structures. When shrinkage is restrained, cracks may develop. The students will learn how to apply different criteria for assessing concrete cracking and how to retrieve the mechanical properties of the concrete, especially stiffness and creep, which are needed for the calculations of self-induced stresses and risk of cracking.
In addition to macroscopic cracks, microcracking may occur in the cement paste due to inner restraint offered by the aggregates. Both macroscopic cracks and diffuse microcracking within a concrete may facilitate the ingress of harmful substances (e.g. chloride and sulfate ions) into the concrete; these may react with the concrete or with the reinforcement and create further deterioration. The students will acquire an understanding of the mechanisms of transport through cracked concrete, with special focus on experimental evidence and on techniques able to visualize the transport process and follow it in time.
As a final outcome of the course, the students will be able to estimate the impact of cracking on the expected durability of concrete structures and to implement different types of measures to reduce the extent of cracking.
ContentConcrete is generally viewed as a long-lasting construction material. However, the durability of a concrete structure can be jeopardized by shrinkage-induced cracking. In addition to being unsightly, cracks have the potential to act as weak planes for further distress or as conduits for accelerated ingress of aggressive agents that may reduce durability.
Advances in concrete technology over the past decades have led to the practical use of concrete with a low water to binder ratio and with different types of mineral and organic admixtures. Another recent development is self-compacting concrete, which avoids concrete vibration and reduces labor during placing. Unfortunately, these concretes are especially prone to cracking at early ages, unless special precautions are taken. Proper curing becomes in this case the key to achieve better performance in various environmental and load conditions.
Specific topics covered by the course:
- Hydration and microstructure development
- Plastic shrinkage
- Development of mechanical properties
- Thermal deformation
- Autogenous deformation
- Drying shrinkage
- Creep and relaxation
- Curing
- Shrinkage-reducing admixtures
- Internal curing: saturated lightweight aggregates and superabsorbent polymers
- Fracture and microcracking
- Transport in cracked concrete
- Impact of cracking on concrete durability
- Self-healing of cracks
Lecture notesFor each lecture, lecture notes will be provided. In addition, one or two research papers for each lecture will be indicated as supportive information.
LiteratureCopies of one to two research papers relevant to the topic of each lecture will be provided to the students as supportive information.
Prerequisites / NoticeA basic knowledge of concrete technology is preferable.

Performance assessment

Performance assessment information (valid until the course unit is held again)
Performance assessment as a semester course
ECTS credits3 credits
ExaminersP. Lura, M. Wyrzykowski
Typesession examination
Language of examinationEnglish
RepetitionThe performance assessment is offered every session. Repetition possible without re-enrolling for the course unit.
Mode of examinationoral 30 minutes
This information can be updated until the beginning of the semester; information on the examination timetable is binding.

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Offered in

Civil Engineering MasterMajor in Materials and MechanicsWInformation