Investigating the evolution of fractures in clay–based ceramics during repeated freeze-thawing cycles using micro X-ray computed tomography and image analysis

Carlo Porfido, Roberto Emanuele Rizzo* (Corresponding Author), David Healy, Matteo Spagnuolo, Roberto Terzano, Ignazio Allegretta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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This work presents a study on the fracturing behaviour of a quartz tempered clay-based ceramic subjected to damage in freeze-thaw cycles. X-ray micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) provided high-resolution imaging of the ceramic before and during the freeze-thaw treatment, allowing to analyse a fully water-saturated sample using a special thermal stage designed to keep the sample frozen during analyses. Micro-CT 3D renderings showed the internal features of the specimen (i.e., quartz grain distribution), the increment of fracture count and size, and the detachment of ceramic and/or temper fragments from the edges of the sample over the cycles. Selected 2D micrographs, before and after freeze-thawing treatment, were analysed using the MATLAB toolbox FracPaQ. This software provided detailed data on fracture length, intensity, density, orientation and connectivity, and enabled to interpret the process of fracture initiation and propagation inside the material. These results showed that the temper plays a crucial role in ceramic fracturing behaviour under freeze-thawing conditions, as damage propagation is influenced by quartz grain distribution and orientation within the material. The study described in this work, not only offers new insights into the fracture dynamics of freeze-thawed clay-based ceramics, but also presents a new methodological approach to quantitatively measure fracture damage in porous materials.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111185
Number of pages12
JournalMaterials Characterization
Early online date13 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Ignazio Allegretta was supported by a research grant on the project PON R&I – Progetto AIM1809249 – attivitá 1, linea 1.

Data Availability
The raw/processed data required to reproduce these findings cannot be shared at this time as they include more than 4TB of raw micro-tomographic data. However, for those researchers interested in analysing this dataset, tomographic data will be made available upon request by contacting the Dr. Carlo Porfido (e-mail: The FracPaQ toolbox, used for image analysis, is freely available to download from the following addresses:


  • Clay-based ceramics
  • X-ray micro computed tomography
  • Fractures
  • Freeze - thawing
  • Image analysis


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