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Monday 13 Wednesday 15 July 2009

FRPRCS-9 Sydney, Australia


Muhammad Masood RAFI


Department of Civil Engineering, NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi,

FireSERT, University of Ulster, Belfast, United Kingdom
Keywords: Concrete, deflection, failure, fire, FRP, steel, strength.


Fire is one of the possible threats to the building structures. The provision of appropriate fire
resistance to the buildings is a major requirement as the structural integrity could be the last line of
defence when all other means and measures of restraining a fire fail [1]. The need of studying the
response of fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) reinforced structures at elevated temperatures can hardly
be understated to utilise non-metallic bars in residential & commercial buildings and similar structures.
Building control authorities set out fire resistance requirements of building structure components in
terms of their fire rating, which is the time of sustaining fire prior to failure. Failure in this context
means either collapse or extremely large deformation. The suitability of a construction is usually
judged by observing the behaviour of a representative specimen after exposing it to a specified
heating regime in a laboratory [2]. This study presents the results of elevated temperature tests which
were conducted on the concrete beams reinforced with carbon FRP (CFRP) or steel bars. The fire
resistance of these beams was studied and compared in terms of effects of rising temperatures on the
beam strength and stiffness properties and failure modes.


2.1 Tests Specimens

Details of a typical beam are shown in Fig.1. A 20 mm concrete cover was used all-around the
beam. The compression steel and nominal concrete strength were kept constant for all beams. Four
100 mm cubes and four 100 x 200 mm cylinders were cast for each beam. Of three tested beams two
were reinforced with the CFRP bars whereas the third beam was steel reinforced beam and was used
as a control specimen. The notation of the beam are as follows: the first letter (B) stands for beam; the
second letter indicates the testing temperature as R for room temperature and E for elevated
temperature; the third letter represents the type of tension reinforcing bar material such as S for steel
and C for CFRP; the letter in italic provides the number of layers such as S for single and D for double
layer; the following number signifies clear cover and the numeral in the end is the specimen number.
2 T8 bars
6 mm
2 T10 steel /
2 9.5 mm
CFRP bars



100 mm c/c Typ.


All dimensions in mm
Fig. 1 Details of a typical beam

2.2 Materials
The average 28-day cylinder strength of the concrete was 33.44 MPa. The strength on the day of
test is given in Table 1. These were obtained by crushing the cylinders a few hours before the test.
The FRP bars consisted of 9.5 mm diameter straight CFRP rods. The bars were produced by an
American manufacturer using the pultrusion process. The resin used to bond the fibres was bisphenol
epoxy vinyl ester. A textured surface was provided on the bars through surface treatment in order to

Monday 13 Wednesday 15 July 2009

FRPRCS-9 Sydney, Australia

increase the bond with the concrete. Tension steel rebars consisted of 10 mm diameter high strength
deformed bars. The hanger bars were of 8 mm diameter high strength deformed steel for all beams.
Both top and bottom steel bars were hooked at each end. Smooth 6 mm diameter closed rectangular
stirrups spaced at 100 mm centre to centre were used to comply with the criteria of ultimate strength
design of FRP reinforced beams given by ACI code [3,4].
Table 1

Strength of concrete on the day of test and applied load.


Compressive Strength (MPa)

Applied Load (kN)




No. of Cracks
Before Fire
After Fire



2.3 Test Procedure

A load of 40% of the ambient load capacity was applied to the beam. The amount of the load used
for each beam is given in Table 1. The beam was positioned over the half round supports on the
furnace roof frame. The heat was applied to the beam soffit and lateral faces (approx. 90 mm) on each
side. The length of the beam exposed to the heat on all three sides was 1500 mm. The heating
arrangements provided 225 mm long unheated beam ends on its either side. The heating rate inside
the furnace was in accordance with ISO834 standard heating curve [5].


3.1 Modes of Failure

The design of BECS20 and BESS20-1 beams was based on ACI code [3,4]. The BECS20 beams
were designed over-reinforced using reinforcement ratio () greater than the balanced reinforcement
ratio (b). The BESS20-1 beam was under-reinforced with less than b. The beams developed
cracks at the initial load application, before the start of heating test. A comparison of number of cracks
(before and after the test) in Table 1 shows that the BECS20 beams developed more cracks than the
BESS20-1 beam, which can be expected.
3.1.1 Failure of BECS20 Beams
FRP bars can loose both their strength and stiffness due to the degradation in the resin at
elevated temperatures. Kumahara et al. [6] found a 20% reduction in the tensile strength of bars at
250 C. Therefore it can be expected that the longitudinal strength of a FRP rod is not significantly
affected up to about 300 C. Loss of polymer matrix begins at a temperature of 300 C [7]. Tensile
properties of fibre bars then decrease sharply and could become negligible. A reduction of up to 60%
in the tensile strength at a temperature of 400 C was noticed by Kumahara et al [6].
The temperature rise at the bar surface in the beams is shown in Fig. 2 where is can be seen that
temperature curves for both the steel and CFRP bars are similar and temperature at the rod surface is
independent of its material type, as can be expected. It can be noticed in Fig. 2 that the temperature of
400 C was reached after about 45 min of heating during the test. However the beam was able to
sustain the load and heat due to the anchorage provided to the bars in the cold ends even after 400 C.
The FRP rods at one end of the BECS20 beams slipped close to their failure. This made an existing
crack to open up and propagate upwards in the compression zone. This crack was close to the point
load in the one half of the beam where the slippage of bars occurred. The concrete eventually crushed
on top of this crack to cause beam failure.
3.1.2 Failure of BESS20-1 Beam
There were only few cracks in the BESS20-1 beam, before the start of the fire test (Table 1).
These cracks were relatively low in height and narrow in width. The chances of large amount of heat
penetration through the cracks and hence deterioration of steel bar material properties locally were
less in the BESS20-1 beam compared to the BECS20 beams. The rebar properties thus degraded
more uniformly with time and bars eventually yielded as a result of large strain development. A couple
of cracks at each end of the constant moment zone opened up and propagated upwards, which
reduced the concrete area to resist compressive stresses and caused its failure on top. No signs of
spalling or any concrete breakage were seen in any of the tested beams.

Monday 13 Wednesday 15 July 2009

FRPRCS-9 Sydney, Australia

Temperature ( C)






Time (min)

Fig. 2 Temperature development of rebar in beams

3.2 Deflection Behaviour
The beam was simply supported at its end and was unrestrained both axially and rotationally at
initial load application. The deflection behaviours of the beams, after the start of the heating, are
plotted in Fig. 3. Both concrete and steel expand at elevated temperatures, like many other materials.
However, the longitudinal expansion of the beam was restrained by the cooler parts, which were
protected from heating. The beam thus became laterally restrained but rotationally unrestrained during
the heating test. Consequently, any change in length due to the expansion of heated part of the beam
was also accommodated in the deflection. Hence the deflection during heating comprised of deflection
owing to the beam reduced flexural stiffness, bowing owing to the curvature, which was induced by
thermal gradients, and the deflection owing to the lateral restraint.

Deflection (mm)




Beam BECS20-1
Beam BECS20-2


Beam BESS20-1


Theoretical Failure







Time (min)

Fig. 3 Deflection behaviours of beams

It can be seen in Fig. 3 that the deflection of BESS20-1 beam increased linearly during the test
and the rate of deflection became non-linear after 64 min of heating. The bar temperature at this time
was nearly 552 C (Fig. 2). This non-linear deflection continued for around 16 more min before the
concrete failed after approximately 80 min of heating. The failure of a flexural element during fire is
considered at a mid-span deflection of (span) /400d [8], where d is the effective depth. The limiting
deflection corresponding to the theoretical failure is indicated with the help of a solid horizontal line in
Fig. 3 where it is evident that the failure in beam BESS20-1 occurred at 77 min.
Four different phases of the deflection behaviour of BECS20 beams are apparent in Fig. 3. The
deflection of these beams initially increased linearly similar to the BESS20-1 beam but with a smaller
slope. The difference in the slopes between the two types of beams may be due to various factors
including (1) poor conduction of heat [9] across the diameter of a FRP bar, which caused non-uniform
changes in the stiffness properties with temperature, (2) less bar deformation at low temperatures, (3)
negative thermal expansion co-efficient of the fibrous rod. This linear rise continued until around 14
min and 120 C of bar temperature. The supplier provided the glass-transition temperature (Tg) of the
rod as 96 C and heat distortion temperature of the resin as 104 C. Tg corresponds to the softening
temperature of a polymer. The rate of deflection beyond this time was very small until around 50 and
45 min in the beam BECS20-1 and BECS20-2, respectively. The bar temperature in these beams
reached at 457 C and 414 C, respectively, at this time interval. FRP bars have been found to loose 80

Monday 13 Wednesday 15 July 2009

FRPRCS-9 Sydney, Australia

to 90% of bond strength in the temperature range of 200-250 C [10]. It is likely that the beam
behaviour after 120 C changed gradually from a beam to a tied arch, which was anchored by the FRP
tie rod in the cold ends of the beam.
The amount of thrust in the springing of this tied arch became considerable as a result of the
deterioration in properties of the tie bar after 400 C. The bond forces between the rebars and concrete
in the anchored zone were unable to resist this thrust. The bars in the beam BECS20-1 thus started to
slip at around 52 min of heating. However the beam kept taking the load for the next 11 min. A linear
deflection rise with an increase in the curves slope can be seen, at this point, in Fig. 3. The tensile
force transfer mechanism failed with the increasing amount of bar slip. The deflection curve then
turned nonlinear and the deflection increased rapidly. The concrete failed eventually on the top as the
propagating crack reduced the concrete area which was required to resist compressive stresses and
the load on the beam dropped.
In the beam BECS20-2, the rod slip initiated at around 45 min and load on the beam dropped after
51 min of heating. The third phase of the deflection curve in this case was noticed only for a small time
interval before the curve became non-linear, as can be noticed in Fig. 3. The slip in both bars in the
beam BECS20-2 initiated with a time lapse of 4 min. This may either be caused by unequal
distribution of load to both bars due to some non-uniformity in the deformation during the test or slight
difference in the anchorage lengths of the two bars, which resulted during the casting process. It is
clearly illustrated in Fig. 3 that both beams produced similar results, although some differences in the
failure times exist. The loss of anchorage was a major contributing factor to the failure and to the fire
resistance of the beams. It can be inferred that had the anchorage not failed both BECS20 beams
could have survived a longer and equal period of time in the furnace.


The results of experimental testing of steel or CFRP bar reinforced concrete beams at elevated
temperatures are reported in this paper. The main findings of the investigation are listed below:
1. Bar temperature was independent of its material type.
2. The restraint to the beam longitudinal expansion produced early yielding in the steel bars.
3. Steel reinforced beam failed by the steel yielding and FRP RC beams failed by concrete
crushing, after the end anchorage of FRP bars was lost.
4. CFRP beams were less ductile but more stiff than steel RC beam. This can be concluded that
it is possible for the FRP reinforced beams to perform equally well in a fire situation compared
to a steel reinforced beam.

The authors wish to acknowledge the support provided for this research by the School of Built
Environment, University of Ulster and all the laboratory technical staff members.




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