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Acoustic Emission and Low Temperature Calorimetry Study of Freeze and Thaw Behavior in Cementitious Materials Exposed to NaCl Salt



Yaghoob Farnam, Dale P. Bentz, Allison Hampton, Jason Weiss


This paper describes a series of experiments that were performed to assess the freeze-thaw behavior of mortar samples exposed to NaCl solutions. A low-temperature longitudinal guarded comparative calorimeter was used to perform cyclic freeze-thaw testing on mortar samples saturated with NaCl solutions. Heat flow and acoustic emission activity was monitored during the freeze-thaw experiment to detect ice formation and cracking. While the conventional water-NaCl phase diagram would suggest that no freezing or damage would occur in samples saturated with 15 % and 23.3 % NaCl solution by mass within the applied freeze-thaw temperature range, damage was observed. For these samples, an additional heat flow peak accompanied by acoustic activity was detected at a temperature greater than the expected freezing point. To better understand the source of this damage, a low temperature differential scanning calorimeter was used to investigate the influence of NaCl on freeze-thaw behavior of water, two pore solutions, hydrated cement powder, and calcium hydroxide powder. The results showed that the pore solution alters the freeze-thaw behavior slightly; however, it does not exhibit the additional phase change at higher concentrations. The samples made with hydrated cement powder showed the unexpected phase change in high concentrations of NaCl solution in a temperature range between 0 °C and 8 °C. While the exact nature of this phase change is currently not definitively known, it appears that it results in a premature damage development during freeze-thaw when high concentration salt solutions are used, even if freezing of the solution is not occurring.
Journal of the Transportation Research Board


Acoustic Emission, calorimeter, concrete, deicing Salts, freeze and thaw, heat flow, mortar, NaCl


Farnam, Y. , Bentz, D. , Hampton, A. and Weiss, J. (2014), Acoustic Emission and Low Temperature Calorimetry Study of Freeze and Thaw Behavior in Cementitious Materials Exposed to NaCl Salt, Journal of the Transportation Research Board, [online], (Accessed April 13, 2024)
Created November 2, 2014, Updated October 12, 2021