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Physical and Thermal Properties of Aggregates


To explain the following physical properties of aggregates:

o Specific gravity
o Density
o Absorption and surface moisture
o Bulking of sand
o Unsoundness due to volume changes

To explain the thermal properties of aggregates


Specific Gravity

The specific gravity also called as "relative density" of an aggregate is the ratio of
its weight to the weight of an equal volume of water (water displaced on
S.G = density of solid
density of water

Depending on whether the pores are included in the measurements, we express

the specific gravity in two ways:

Absolute specific gravity (ASG), and


Bulk specific gravity (BSG), as given below

ASG = weight of aggregate (solid only) . 1 .

volume of aggregate (solid only) water

BSG = weight of aggregate (solid +pores) . 1 .

volume of aggregate (solid +pores) water

= weight of aggregate (solid +pores)
weight of water displaced

The BSG volume is the realistic one to use since the effective volume that
aggregate occupies in concrete includes its internal pores

Most natural aggregates have specific gravities between 2.4 and 2.9. BSG value is
used in certain computations for mixture proportioning and control

Bulk Density

."Bulk density", also called as the unit weight, is defined as the weight per unit
total volume (i.e., volume of solids + volume of voids between the particles) of
Bulk Density =

Volume of solids +Volume of voids

Bulk Density = Bulk Specific Gravity x 1000 kg/m3

Bulk density of both fine and coarse normal aggregates varies within the range of
1450 to 1750 kg/m3 (90 to 110 lb/ft3)

Bulk density is used when aggregate is to be batched by volume to convert

quantities by mass to quantities by volume

Bulk density depends on how densely the aggregate is packed (i.e. whether less or
more voids) and, consequently, on the size distribution and shape of the particles

Loose and compacted bulk densities of aggregate are determined in the laboratory

The ratio of loose bulk density to the compacted bulk density lies usually between
0.87 and 0.96

Knowing the bulk density (1b) and bulk specific gravity of the aggregate in SSD
condition (p), the voids ratio of aggregate (e) can be calculated as:
e = Volume of voids = 1-

Volume of solids

x l000kg/m3

Thus, the voids ratio (e) indicates the volume of mortar required to fill the space
between the coarse aggregate particles. More will be the e more will be the paste

The bulk density of the mixture of FA and CA varies with the percentage of FA in
the mixture, as shown in the following figure:

Figure 6.6

As can be observed from the above figure, the maximum bulk density of a mixture
of fine and coarse aggregates is achieved when the mass of the fine aggregate is
around 35 to 40% of the total mass of the mixture

Corresponding to the maximum bulk density of a mixture of fine and coarse

aggregates, there is minimum cement paste requirement (because of minimum
remaining volume of voids in the mixture) and therefore there would be economy
in the production of concrete

The analysis of the mixture of FA and CA, for determination of the volume of
void in the mixture (Vv) or ratio of the volume of fine aggregate to volume of
coarse aggregate (VFA/VCA), can be carried out, as follows:

Vm, VFA, VCA, Vv = volume of mixture, FA, CA, and voids, respectively
m, FA, CA = bulk density of mixture, FA, and CA, respectively
We have:



FA VFA + CA VCA = m V m


By solving Eq. 1 and Eq. 2, we can determine VFA/VCA if Vv is given, and vice-versa.

Problem:A mixture of sand and gravel has a unit weight of 2000 kg/m 3. If the bulk specific gravity
of sand is 2.3 and gravel is 2.5, and the volume percent of void ratio is 18%. Calculate the
volume ratio of sand and gravel.
Solution:m = 2000 kg/m3

We have,

FA = 2.3 x 1000 = 2300 kg/m3

CA = 2.5 x 1000 = 2500 kg/m3
Vv = 18%
Considering total volume of mixtures, Vm= 1 m3
Vv = 0.18 m3
VFA + VCA + Vv = Vm

We have,

=> VFA + VCA = 1- 0.18 = 0.82



FA VFA + CA VCA = m V m
2300 VFA + 2500 VCA= 2000

2.3 VFA + 2.5 VCA = 2

By solving Eq. (1) and Eq. (2)

We get,

VCA= 0.57 m3
and VFA= 0.25 m3

Ratio of sand and gravel in the mixture

= VFA = 0.25 = 0.438 = 1
VCA 0.57
VFA : VCA = 1 : 2.28


Problem:A mixture of 35% sand 65% gravel has a unit weight of 1900 kg/m 3. If the bulk specific
gravity of the sand is 2.4 and of the gravel is 2.6. Calculate the volume percent of void
space in the mixture.
Solution:Considering total volume of mixture, Vm = 1m3
Total weight of mixture
Wm = m Vm = 1900 x 1 = 1900 kg
We have,
WFA = 35 x 1900 = 665 kg
WCA = 65 x 1900 = 1235 kg
FA = 2.4 x 1000 = 2400 kg/m3
CA = 2.6 x 1000 = 2600 kg/m3
VFA = WFA = 665 = 0.2770 m3
FA 2400

VCA = WCA = 1235 = 0.4750 m3

CA 2600

We have,
VFA + VCA + VV = Vm
0.277 + 0.475 + Vv = 1
Vv = 0.248 m3
% Volume of void space
= 0.248 m3 x 100 = 24.8%
1 m3

Absolute Density

"Absolute density" is defined as the weight per unit volume of solid particles of
aggregate (i.e. absolute volume) excluding the volume of voids in aggregate
Absolute Density =

Volume of solids (i.e. absolute volume)

Absolute Density = Absolute Specific Gravity x 1000 kg/m3

Absolute density is used when mix design is carried by "absolute volume
method", in which total volume of concrete is equated to the sum of absolute
volumes of water, cement, aggregates, admixtures, and air.

Absorption and Surface Moisture

Due to porosity of aggregates water can be absorbed into the body of particles
(Absorption), and also water can be retained on the surface of the particle as a
film of moisture (Surface Moisture)

Absorption and surface moisture both affect the w/c ratio of the concrete
significantly. The absorption reduces the w/t ratio whereas surface moisture
increases the w/c ratio

Moisture states of aggregates are shown in the- following Fig.:

Figure 6.4

1. Oven-dry (OD): All moisture removed from the aggregate by heating in

an oven at
105C to constant weight (overnight heating usually suffices). All pores
are empty.
2. Air-dry (AD): All moisture removed from surface, but internal pores
partially full.
3. Saturated-surface-dry (SSD): All pores filled with water, but no film of
water on
the surface.
4. Wet: All pores completely filled with water with a film of water on the

Out of the above four states, only two, the OD and SSD states, corresponds to
the specific moisture contents

The SSD condition is the better choice as reference state, for the following

It represents the equilibrium moisture state of the aggregate in concrete;

that is, the aggregate will neither absorb water nor give up water to the

The moisture content of aggregates in the field is much closer to the SSD
state than the OD state.

The bulk specific gravity (BSG) of aggregates is more accurately,

determined by the displacement method in the SSD condition.

The moisture content can be calculated directly from measurements of

apparent BSG using the displacement method.

However, a major disadvantage of using the SSD is that it is not easy to obtain a
true SSD condition and therefore many people prefer to use OD state as a
reference point

The expressions for calculating the absorption capacity (AC), effective absorption
(EA), surface moisture (SM), and moisture contents are as follows
AC = WSSD WOD x 100%

The absorption capacity is used in mix proportion calculations and can be
converted from the SSD to OD system, or vice versa.
EA = WSSD WAD x 100%

The effective absorption is used to calculate the weight of water absorbed (W abs)
by the weight of aggregate (Wagg) in the concrete mix:
Wabs = (EA) Wagg
SM = Wwet WSSD x 100%

It is used to calculate the additional water (Wadd) added to the concrete with the
Wadd = (SM) Wagg
MC = Wstock WSSD x 100%

Where Wstock is the weight of the aggregate in the stockpiled condition. If the
moisture content is positive, it is surface moisture; if negative, it is effective
absorption. Thus,

WMC = (MC) Wagg

Bulking is the increase in total volume of moist fine aggregate over the same
weight dry
Reason: Surface tension in the moisture holds the particles apart, causing an
increase in volume, as shown in the following Fig.

As shown in the above graph, the amount of bulking of FA depends on the moisture
content and grading. At a same moisture content finer grading has more bulking than
coarser grading
Due to bulking the FA should not be batched by volume unless correction for the
bulking is made

Unsoundness due to Volume Change

Following are the causes of unsoundness (i.e. volume changes) of aggregate:

Freezing and thawing

Thermal changes at temperature above freezing
Alternate wetting and drying

Unsoundness of aggregate result in a deterioration of the concrete in the form of

local scaling (so-called pop-outs) and even extensive surface cracking

Aggregate is tested for its unsoundness by the following methods recommended by

BS and ASTM Codes:
o Alternate immersion of aggregate in sulfate solution and drying
o Subjecting the aggregate to cycles of freezing and thawing

In both methods, the unsoundness of aggregate is measured in terms of the reduction in

its particle size after subjecting it to the exposures.

Thermal Properties of Aggregates

Following are three thermal properties of aggregate relevant to the performance of

o Coefficient of thermal expansion
o Specific heat
o conductivity

Specific heat and conductivity of aggregate are of interest in mass concrete to

which insulation is applied, but usually not in ordinary structural work

The difference between coefficients of thermal expansion of aggregate and

cement paste is important for the durability of concrete

If the difference between coefficients of thermal expansion of aggregate and

cement paste is smaller, durability of concrete is not adversely affected within a
temperature range of 4 to 60 C

If the difference between coefficients of thermal expansion of aggregate and

cement paste is more than 5.5 x 10-6/oC , durability of concrete subjected to
freezing and thawing may be adversely affected

The coefficient of thermal expansion for:

o hydrated cement paste lies between 11 and 16 x 10-6/oC
o rocks commonly used for aggregate lies between 5 and 13 x 10-6/oC