Corrosion of steel bars in fibre reinforced concrete: corrosion mechanisms and structural performance

Abstract: The viability of employing fibre reinforcement to improve the durability performance of RC structures by delaying and/or reducing rebar corrosion and by mitigating the structural impact of corrosion-induced damage have been investigated. Given the enhanced crack control of FRC, it could be advantageous to use fibres in civil engineering structures to decrease the ingress of corrosion-initiation substances. However, the combined use of both types of reinforcement in chloride environments raises questions regarding the potential influence that fibres may have on the corrosion process of conventional rebar.Long-term experiments were carried out featuring naturally corroded RC elements subjected to different loading conditions and varying crack widths. Complementary short-term experiments were carried out to isolate the influence of fibres on individual parameters governing the process of reinforcement corrosion, such as chloride diffusion, internal cracking and electrical resistivity, as well as on corrosion-induced damage, such as cracking and spalling of the cover.From the experiments it was found that the ingress of chloride ions into concrete, assessed through migration and bulk diffusion tests, was not significantly affected by the presence of fibres. The internal crack pattern of conventionally RC beams subjected to bending loads revealed a tendency for crack branching and increased tortuosity when fibres were present, which can potentially decrease the permeation of concrete and promote crack self-healing. The time to corrosion initiation, evaluated through half-cell potential monitoring, for fibre reinforced beams were similar or longer than the plain concrete ones. However, the effect of fibres was minor compared to the difference between cracked and uncracked specimens, thus highlighting the importance of cracks for the initiation of corrosion. The DC resistivity was found to be unaffected by steel fibres, indicating that they do not pose a risk for increased corrosion rates. Gravimetric steel loss measurements showed that the corrosion level of reinforcement bars embedded in FRC beams was similar or even lower than for plain concrete beams. Moreover, the examination of the corrosion patterns and a detailed analysis of individual corrosion pits revealed a tendency for more distributed corrosion with reduced cross-sectional loss in FRC. Corrosion-induced cracking of the cover was somewhat delayed by fibre reinforcement, particularly for small cover thicknesses, which was attributed to the additional source of passive confinement provided by the fibres. Thereafter, corrosion-induced cracks were effectively arrested by fibres, which resulted in an enhanced bond behaviour of SFRC with no apparent loss of bond strength and high residual bond-stresses. Fibres also had a positive effect on the residual flexural capacity of corroded beams, which generally displayed a slightly increased load-carrying capacity and rotation capacity compared to plain concrete beams with corroded reinforcement. The promising results obtained in this study indicate that FRC may be effectively used to extend the service life of civil engineering structures by delaying and reducing reinforcement corrosion as well as by mitigating the structural effects of corrosion-induced damage.