Institute of Functional Interfaces

Immediate impact on the rim zone of cement based materials due to chemical attack: A focused ion beam study

  • chair:

    Schwotzer, M. / Scherer, T. / Gerdes, A. (2014)

  • place:

    Materials Characterization 99 (2015), 77-83

  • Date: 2015
  • Schwotzer, M. / Scherer, T. / Gerdes, A. (2014): „Immediate impact on the rim zone of cement based materials due to chemical attack: A focused ion beam study“. In: Materials Characterization 99 (2015), 77-83


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Cement based materials are in their widespread application fields exposed to various aqueous environments. This can lead to serious chemical changes affecting the durability of the materials. In particular in the context of service life prediction a detailed knowledge of the reaction mechanisms is a necessary base for the evaluation of the aggressivity of an aqueous medium and this is deduced commonly from long term investigations. However, these processes start immediately at the material/water-interface, when a cementitious system comes into contact with an aqueous solution, altering here the chemical composition and microstructure.

This rim zone represents the first hurdle that has to be overcome by an attacking aqueous solution. Therefore, the properties of the surface near area should be closely associated with the further course of deterioration processes by reactive transport. In this context short term exposure experiments with hardened cement paste over 4 and 48 h have been carried out with demineralized water, hard tap water and different sulfate solutions.

In order to investigate immediate changes in the near-surface region, depth profile cuts have been performed on the cement paste samples by means of focused ion beam preparation techniques. A scanning beam of Gallium ions is applied to cut a sharp edge in the cement paste surface, providing insights into the composition and microstructure of the upper ten to hundred microns.

Electron microscopic investigations on such a section of the rim zone, together with surface sensitive X-ray diffraction accompanied by a detailed characterization of the bulk composition confirm that the properties of the material/water interface are of relevance for the durability of cement based systems in contact with aqueous solutions. In this manner, focused ion beam investigations constitute auspicious tools to contribute to a more sophisticated understanding of the reaction mechanisms.