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Using Limestone to Reduce Set Retardation in High Volume Fly Ash Mixtures: Improving Constructability for Sustainability



Lisa R. Gurney, Dale P. Bentz, Taijiro Sato, Jason Weiss


From a sustainability perspective, high volume fly ash (HVFA) concretes are attractive not only because of the reduction in cement content and its associated greenhouse gases that they provide, but also because they avoid landfilling excessive quantities of fly ash. These sustainability benefits are often tempered by practical constructability limitations that may exist for HVFA concretes: retardation and diminution of the early age reactions, delays in setting (and finishing operations), and lower early-age strengths. This paper explores the mitigation of these deficiencies in HVFA mixtures via the incorporation of fine limestone powders into ternary blends. Isothermal calorimetry and Vicat needle penetration measurements are employed to assess reaction rates and setting times, respectively. A systematic variation of the content and fineness of the limestone powder in mixtures containing either a Class C or a Class F fly ash indicates that setting times are linearly correlated with the surface area supplied by the limestone. Comparison of a limestone system to one containing an inert TiO2 of similar particle size indicates that the acceleration and amplification effects of the limestone are due to both physical (nucleation) and chemical (additional calcium ions) processes. The results indicate that ternary blends with 40 % of the cement by volume replaced by fly ash and limestone at a constant water volume fraction can be achieved without significant delays in setting, although their one day cumulative heat release values suggest strength improvements that, while significant, will not likely reach the level provided by a 100 % cement mixture.
Transportation Research Part C-Emerging Technologies


Constructibility, heat of hydration, high volume fly ash, limestone, setting, sustainability, ternary blend.


Gurney, L. , Bentz, D. , Sato, T. and Weiss, J. (2012), Using Limestone to Reduce Set Retardation in High Volume Fly Ash Mixtures: Improving Constructability for Sustainability, Transportation Research Part C-Emerging Technologies, [online],, (Accessed July 14, 2024)


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Created December 2, 2012, Updated October 12, 2021