Hydrophobic Impregnation of Concrete Structures : Effects on Concrete Properties

Abstract: Hydrophobic impregnations often referred to as water repellent agents, today mainly consisting of alkylalkoxysilanes, are often used on concrete to prolong the service life of the structure. This is accomplished by protecting the reinforcement bars from chlorides or by changing the moisture content inside. When the concrete is treated with a water repellent agent the properties of the surface layer becomes hydrophobic and thereby water droplets are stopped from entering, still allowing water vapour to pass through. This change can reduce chloride ingress and stop heavy rain from penetrating through the surface layer. This thesis presents results concerning how the properties of concrete are affected by a hydrophobic impregnation. Moisture transport and fixation in the surface layer of the concrete are studied as well as the secondary effects of more practical use such as the effect on chloride ingress, water absorption and humidity level. It also presents results on how the penetration depth and concentration of the water repellent agent (i) depend on a number of parameters, and (ii) affect the outcome of the treatment. Water repellent treatments on a number of different concrete structures in Stockholm, ranging from tunnel to high-rice building, are evaluated as well. The three most important factors for the penetration of any water repellent agent into concrete are time, porosity and degree of saturation. A semi-empirical equation is derived that gives an idea on how much these factors affect the efficient penetration depth of the water repellent agent. The depth and concentration have a major effect on the performance of the treatment. The moisture diffusion coefficient for a water repellent treated concrete is close to constant and not nearly as dependent on the relative humidity (RH) as for untreated concrete. Unlike untreated concrete, where capillary suction plays an important role for the moisture transport at high RH, the vapour transport is the dominant transport mechanism even at high RH for water repellent treated concrete. The moisture fixation is affected by a water repellent treatment and the effect is clearest at high moisture levels. The main reason for this is that the capillary porosity is affected by the treatment to a relatively high degree while the gel porosity to a large extent remains unaffected. A hypothesis is presented which suggests that the RH inside the concrete at the time of the treatment affects not only the depth and concentration but also in which range of pore radii the water repellent agent is present and active. The durability of hydrophobic impregnations can be divided into surface effects and in depth effects. The first is sensitive to the environmental and mechanical loadings and normally disappears within a year while the later can be long lasting if a sufficient depth is reached. Hydrophobic impregnations are not the answer to all problems in concrete related to moisture, but if correctly used it can prolong the service life of the structure which will lead to savings of natural resources and thus both economical and environmental savings for the community.