Effects of silica additives on fracture properties of carbon nanotube and carbon fiber reinforced Portland cement mortar

Peter Stynoski, Paramita Mondal, Charles Marsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fiber reinforcements provide many benefits to cementitious composites, including reduction of crack widths and increases in ductility. However, the interfacial transition zone between fibers and hydrated cement can contain a high proportion of calcium hydroxide and porosity. With their high moduli of elasticity, carbon nanotubes and carbon fibers could provide substantial mechanical reinforcement at multiple length scales, but only if their bond to the matrix can be controlled. Surface treatments of fibers and addition of supplemental materials in the matrix can influence both the mechanical interaction at the interface and the dispersion of these relatively small reinforcements. We performed a broad study of Portland cement mortar mixtures containing silica fume, plain or silica-functionalized carbon nanotubes, and carbon fibers to characterize changes in fracture properties. The early age hydration kinetics of cement pastes containing carbon nanotubes were compared using isothermal calorimetry. Early age fracture surfaces of cement pastes containing carbon fibers were observed using a scanning electron microscope. The notched beam test method of the Two Parameter Fracture Model was used to determine the fracture properties of each mix. We observed that silica fume and silica functional groups improved the fracture performance of mixtures containing carbon nanotubes and carbon fibers. Further optimization of dosage, size, and interface strength is required to fully utilize carbon nanotubes in cementitious composites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-240
Number of pages9
JournalCement and Concrete Composites
StatePublished - Jan 2015


  • Carbon fiber
  • Carbon nanotube
  • Fracture toughness
  • Interfacial transition zone
  • Portland cement
  • Silica fume

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Materials Science(all)

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