Toughening cement-based materials through the control of interfacial bonding

I. J. Merchant, Donald E MacPhee, Howard William Chandler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Mortars are made from inherently brittle components: sand grains and hardened cement paste. Under normal circumstances, cracks will propagate rapidly through the cement matrix, bypassing the strong sand grains but fracturing some of the weakest. The approach of the work described in this paper was to modify the mortar in order to alter this process. These modifications produced tensile residual stresses between the matrix and the aggregate, which when released by an additional applied tensile stress produced microcracking, debonding of matrix from aggregate, a small expansion and increased toughness. This work demonstrates toughening in sand/Portland cement mortars modified with different expansive admixtures sodium sulphate or dead-burnt lime. Additionally, mortars of sand/ASTM Type K cement were tested. In order to give additional insight into the toughening mechanism, spherical and angular aggregate have been used to ascertain the consequences of microcracking and aggregate-bridging. The role of aggregate-bridging, especially when related to fracture paths, is also discussed and suggests that the bond between the aggregate and the matrix has been found in some cases to control not only the crack path but consequently the apparent toughness. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1873-1880
Number of pages7
JournalCement and Concrete Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • cement
  • mechanical properties
  • microstructure
  • fracture toughness
  • fracture
  • behavior
  • resistance
  • ceramics


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