Development of laboratory equipment to obtain powdered concrete samples to determine chlorides concentration for durability studies

  • Carlos Eduardo Tino Balestra
  • Gustavo Savaris
  • Marcos Vinicius Schlichting
  • Wilson Leobet
Research Article


The determination of chloride concentration in reinforced concrete structures present in marine environment is an important tool in the context of their service life, allowing the development of models capable of estimating the beginning of the bars corrosive process and, at the same time, the reduction of the load bearing capacity of the reinforced concrete structure. In general, the methods for collection of powder concrete samples from real structures are based on the execution of holes with a drill or from the direct grinding of the concrete surface, however, there is the possibility of contamination of samples between the execution of successive continuity of the holes. Thus, another possible method deals with the extraction of concrete cores from the structures and subsequent sectioning in the laboratory. At this point, sectioning procedures not allowing the grinding of layers smaller than 0.5 cm, and still may cause material loss due the rotation speed of the cutting discs. In this way, this work presents an equipment developed, for academic purposes, with the objective to perform the grinding of concrete layers with thickness of 2 mm, at an affordable cost, to obtain powder concrete samples in order to determine chlorides. The results showed that the equipment meets technical and economic aspects successfully and can be used in several world laboratories.


Chlorides Corrosion Concrete Durability 

1 Introduction

It is consensus in the literature that the chlorides action in reinforced concrete structures, present in the marine environment, is the main responsible for the corrosion of the reinforcement of these structures, leading to degradation problems and involving significant financial resource regarding the maintenance and rehabilitation of these structures. In this way, studies related to the chlorides penetration in reinforced concrete structures present in the marine environment has a key role in the development of models that aim not only to estimate their service life but also to design maintenance and rehabilitation plans with the objective of preserving the integrity of the structure present in this aggressive environment [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7].

With respect to corrosion dynamics of reinforcement in concrete structures, the alkaline solution present in the concrete pores provides a suitable environment to the formation of a passivating film, which covers the reinforcements inside the concrete, protecting them against corrosion. This film has as one of its characteristics remain stable in the alkaline environment of the concrete, however, the action of external agents, such as chlorides present in marine environment, end up destroying this film, giving conditions for the beginning of the corrosive process of the bars, with the consequent formation of corrosion products [4, 8, 9, 10].

These corrosion products are expansive and, as they are formed, they deposit on the periphery of the reinforcement, producing volumetric variations in relation to the metal consumed in the process. Such a mechanism generates stresses in the radial direction to the bars axis, which are not supported by the limited plastic deformation capacity presented by the concrete. Consequently, cracks are formed with the subsequent spalling of the cover layer, increasing the penetration of aggressive agents and accelerating the degradation process of the reinforced concrete structures [11]. Besides the cracking and spalling of the cover layer, the reinforcement corrosion leads to structural damages, due to a reduction of the adhesion between the concrete and the reinforcement, impairing the monolithism between these elements, and a progressive reduction of the bars cross section as the corrosive process intensifies, leading to a progressive reduction of its mechanical properties and, at the same time, a decrease in the bearing capacity of the affected reinforced concrete structures [4, 9].

At this point, Schweitzer [12] points out that chloride-induced corrosion may, depending on the geometry and extent of the damage, cause structural failure, such as fragile fractures, due to a localized loss of material in the strength section of the reinforcement. In fact, Zhu and François [13] have shown that the damage caused by chloride-induced corrosion to the cross sections of the bars eventually produces axis eccentricities between corroded and non-corroded sections. Thus, the authors observed, by means of tension tests the greater the eccentricity, lower are the mechanical properties observed in the bars.

Balestra et al. [14] demonstrated the corrosion effects on the mechanical properties of naturally degraded reinforcements presented for decades buried in the soil. The results showed that chloride-induced corrosion can produce small perceptual variations in reinforcement mass, but significant reductions in the mechanical strength, especially, in ductility when subjected to tension. In this case, even corroded bars with a percentage variation of mass of less than 5% presented yield and ultimate strength and final elongation smaller than bars with twice the perceptual variation. This fact is related to the damages produced by the corrosion to the cross sections of the reinforcement, since this type of corrosion may lead to severe punctual reductions of cross section of the bars, even with small variations of mass.

Due to the exposed problem, and considering that chlorides are the main agents responsible for the degradation of reinforced concrete structures present in marine environment, from the perspective of the reinforcement corrosion, the chloride concentrations profiles are characterized as an important tool in the evaluation of the corrosive process of the reinforcement, contributing with relevant information about the real level of aggressiveness to which a structure is subject. At this point, the chloride concentration profiles are defined as the representation of the chloride concentration as the depth in the concrete, from its surface increases. Thus, quantitative information regarding the penetration of chlorides into reinforced concrete structures, especially real structures, are justified, and are the first step in order to develop measures to increase the service life of reinforced concrete structures present in the marine environment.

In this topic, in a more specific way, the chloride penetration models in reinforced concrete structures, Castro et al. [15] and Trocónis de Rincón et al. [16] point out that reliable models can only be developed through the knowledge obtained from chloride concentration profiles from real structures, degraded naturally taking into account the environmental parameters involved. Medeiros et al. [17] point out that although there are lines of research dealing with the subject, service life models still present unsatisfactory results, requiring data obtained from real structures for the improvement of such models.

In relation to chloride concentration determination techniques in concrete samples, Torres-Luque et al. [18] point out 11 available techniques, as shown in Fig. 1. The most common processes for the analysis of field structures, use semi destructive techniques, that involve the collection of concrete samples, in powder form, from real structures, with subsequent laboratory analysis by the chemical attack of the samples. At this point, the RILEM TC 178-TCM [19] standard prescribes three main methods for obtaining concrete samples to determine the chloride concentration:
Fig. 1

Techniques for determining chloride concentration in concrete samples [18]

  • The drilling method.

  • The direct surface grinding method.

  • The method of concrete core extraction.

The first method uses an impact drill and an apparatus for collecting the powder samples. In this case, holes are made in concrete and the powder material collected is at different depths, being later analyzed in the laboratory. In the second case, there is, similarly to the drilling method, the collection of powder material at different depths of the concrete, however, in this case, a minimum area of 40 cm2 should be obtained at each collection depth, being the powder material later analyzed in the laboratory. The method of concrete core extraction prescribes taking the concrete cores from the structures, with a later grinding and analysis in the laboratory. Figure 2 shows the different methods of collecting concrete samples for analysis described by RILEM TC 178-TCM [19].
Fig. 2

Representation of the main methods for obtain concrete powder samples in order to determine chloride concentration

Although this methods are normalized and adopted by several works found in literature, as observed, for example, in Medeiros et al. [17], Andrade et al. [20] and Otieno et al. [21], both drilling and surface grinding methods can present in a given sample, at a given depth, contamination due to the presence of residual powder present in the collection apparatus obtained from the previous grinding, which can lead to errors in the correct determination of the concentration of chlorides in the analysis in the laboratory and, concurrently with this, leading to errors in the construction of the chloride concentration profiles. In addition, in a general way, the depth of sample collection from these two methods are of the order of 0.5 cm depth per sample, and it is difficult to collect samples from shallower depths, which could refine the analysis, making the chloride concentration profiles contemplating a greater number of points for future numerical modeling. Thus, the extraction of concrete cores, from real structures, could be characterized as a better way to obtain concrete samples of powder.

In general, the extraction of concrete cores is carried out with the use of an concrete core drill (Fig. 3), and the laboratory powder samples were obtained using a circular saw with a diamond disk, where the concrete core is fixed in a vise and, subsequently, is subjected to cut by the movement of the saw, as described by Cheewaket et al. [22]. However, the thickness and rotation speed of the cutting disc can represent a material loss when millimeters layers are wanted.
Fig. 3

Extraction of concrete core in a real structure

In this way, through the exposed problem, this work presents the development of a laboratory equipment, at an affordable cost, for millimeter grinding of concrete cores, to obtain powder samples, which aim to determine the chloride concentration at depths of the order of 2 mm.

2 Experimental procedure

The development of this work is part of a research activity [23] aimed to assess and analyses the chloride concentration profiles of real reinforced concrete structures present in different marine aggressive zones. At this point, 21 specimens were extracted for the determination of the chlorides concentration of the reinforced concrete structures present in Arvoredos Island (Fig. 4).
Fig. 4

Overview of Arvoredos Island, Guarujá, São Paulo, Brazil

The Island is a rocky formation with approximately 37,000 m2 distant from 1.6 km of Pernambuco beach in the city of Guarujá, south coast of São Paulo State, Brazil. The history of the Island dates back to the 1950s when it was granted by the Navy of Brazil for scientific purposes to Engineer Fernando Lee. In this way, several reinforced concrete structures were executed in different marine aggressive zones in order to support the researches [24].

Cores were extracted from different structures with the use of an concrete core drill, and immediately after the extraction, they were wrapped by a protective film to avoid contact of the concrete with the environment. Afterwards, they were sent to the grinding stages in the Construction Materials Laboratory of the Federal Technological University of Paraná campus Toledo, where a grinding equipment was developed as shown in Fig. 5.
Fig. 5

Overview of equipment developed for grinding concrete cores

The equipment developed consists of a bench drill with a base that can be moved vertically and in relation to the drill support axis, where a vise and a Nylon support are attached to the drill in order to fix the concrete cores in the bench drill. In addition, a plastic container with a hole in its bottom, with the same diameter as the concrete core, was used to collect the powder samples from the concrete. At this point, a sealing material was used in the hole of the plastic container in order to prevent the loss of ground material. Finally, at the top of the bench drill, a glass saw, with a diameter equal to that of the specimen, was coupled. The justification for choosing a bench drill coupled to a glass saw was given by:
  • Low rotation of the equipment, not leading to a possible loss of material due to the rotation speed of the equipment (480 rpm).

  • The possibility of adjusting the glass saw depth penetration in the concrete cores by moving the base of the bench drill.

  • The low temperature due to the dry friction between the surface of the concrete core and the glass saw during the grinding process, avoiding possible losses of chlorides due to an increase in temperature.

The operation of this grinding equipment is simple and based on the following methodology:
  • The test concrete core is fixed by the Nylon support in the vise, receiving the plastic container for the collection of the material coming from the grinding.

  • After the set is raised until the surface of the concrete core exceeds the diamond end of the glass saw by 2 mm.

  • In the sequence, the drill is driven and the concrete core is manually moved against the diamond saw’s glass surface. In this way, as the contact occurs between the concrete core and the diamond end of the moving glass saw, the grinding of the concrete is possible, where the powder particles, resulting from this grinding, fall into the inner part of the plastic container.

  • After sweeping the entire surface of the concrete core, the ground material is collected for analysis using brushes, and then is stored, identified and sealed in plastic bags. Before continuing the grinding operations the container is cleaned with damp cloths and dried with brief air jets. After cleaning, it is again coupled to the concrete core and the process is repeated with a new depth.

After the ground material has been identified, the powder samples were analyzed by the X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy technique for the determination of chlorides concentration, as described rigorously in Balestra [23].

3 Results and discussion

The grinding was performed in 21 specimens, where it was possible to perform grinding steps of 2 mm, in the first centimeter of depth in the concrete cores, and then, 4 mm until 5 cm of concrete cores. The collected powder samples were sent for analysis in order to determine the chloride concentration. Figure 6 shows the surface of the concrete core during the grinding process and the powder material inside the plastic container, whereas Fig. 7 shows a typical chloride profile with peak obtained during the analyzes presented by Balestra [23].
Fig. 6

Surface of the test specimen during the grinding process and powdered material in the plastic container

Fig. 7

Typical chloride concentration profile with peak obtained from a concrete structure present in tidal zone for more than 30 years

It can be seen from Fig. 6 that, in fact, it is possible to grind the surface of the concrete cores with a thickness of millimeters and plastic container is capable of collecting a significant amount of material. In addition, the concrete core surface receives a complete sweep of its section, regardless of whether aggregates or only cement hydration products are present. It is also worth mentioning that the surface temperature of the specimen was determined immediately after grinding, with values lower than 28 °C for all test specimens, which prevents the loss of chlorides due to temperature effects due to the dry friction between the surface of the concrete core and the glass saw.

The construction of the chloride concentration profile was obtained successfully, as observed in Fig. 7, and it is possible to clearly verify the presence of a peak. This fact demonstrates that the grinding equipment developed was able to provide powder concrete samples that can be used for the determination of the chloride concentration. Besides it was possible grind concrete cores thickness in layers of 2 mm. In this way, it is possible to obtain a larger number of powder concrete samples to determine the chloride concentration, representing a greater number of points for the construction of a more accurate chloride concentration profile, allowing the development of more accurate models to the real concrete structures condition present in marine environment. This can be observed by the clearly peak of the profile in Fig. 7.

Another important point deals with the time of grinding operations and the cost of the equipment. At this point, the average grinding cycle time of each step was around 11 min, to obtain up to 35 g of powder sample. In addition, the overall cost of the equipment was approximately US $290.00 (data for the month of July 2017 in Brazil), taking into account the acquisition cost of the drill, the vise, the Nylon device, the plastic container with the sealing material and the glass saw. Such facts demonstrate that the equipment developed is capable of optimizing the sampling steps with a representative amount of sample was obtained, free from possible contamination, presenting an affordable cost. Besides, it is worth mentioning that the amount of powder sample obtained in each grinding step allows several tests to be performed for the same depth, allowing counter-proof tests in cases where it is necessary.

In terms of the equipment durability it is possible to emphasize that the main consumption material, after being assembled, is the glass saw, requiring a regular replacement. The cost of the glass saw is approximately US $25.00 (data referring to the month of July 2017 in Brazil), however, with a single saw it was possible to obtain up to 60 powder concrete for a concrete core with a nominal diameter equal to 75 mm. This reinforces that this grinding equipment is able to be used in several laboratories of different universities worldwide.

4 Conclusion

  • The equipment developed was able to successfully meet the demand for powder samples to determine chloride concentration, as evidenced in the profiles obtained.

  • The developed equipment was able to obtain samples of powdered concrete from layers with thickness of the order of 2 mm, allowing to refine the data and points presented in chloride concentration profiles for analysis of the durability and service life of real concrete structures present in marine environment.

  • The average milling time was less than 15 min and the overall cost of purchasing and assembling the equipment was less than US $300.00 (data for July 2017 in Brazil). In addition, the periodic maintenance cost of the equipment is estimated at US $25.00. These facts show that this is an affordable equipment, both for purchase and assembly of the parts, as well as in terms of maintenance, so this equipment developed can be used in the laboratories in various parts of the world.



The authors would like to thank Fernando Lee Foundation for the support during the works at Arvoredos Island.


  1. 1.
    Cairns J et al (2005) Mechanical properties of corrosion-damaged reinforcement. ACI Mater J 102:256–264Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Meira GR et al (2007) Chloride penetration into concrete structures in the marine atmosphere zone: relationship between deposition of chlorides on the wet candle and chlorides accumulated into concrete. Cem Concr Compos 29:667–676CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Pape TM, Melchers RE (2012) Performance of 45-year-old corroded prestressed concrete beams. Struct Build 166:547–559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Apostolopoulos CA, Demis S, Papadakis VG (2013) Chloride-induced corrosion of steel reinforcement: mechanical performance and pit depth analysis. Constr Build Mater 38:139–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Rehman S, Al-Hadhrami LM (2013) Web-based national corrosion cost inventory system for Saudi Arabia. Anticorros Methods Mater 61:77–92Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ueda T, Takewaka K (2007) Performance-based standard specification for maintenance and repair of concrete structures in Japan. Struct Eng Int 4:359–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Medeiros-Junior RA, Lima MG, Medeiros MHF (2014) Service life of concrete structures considering the effects of temperature and relative humidity on chloride transport. Environ Dev Sustain 17:1103–1119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Mehta PK, Monteiro PJM (2006) Concrete: microstructure, properties and materials. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Han SJ et al (2014) Degradation of flexural strength in reinforced concrete members caused by steel corrosion. Constr Build Mater 54:572–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Apostolopoulos CA (2009) The influence of corrosion and cross-section diameter on the mechanical properties of B500c steel. J Mater Eng Perform 18:190–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    François R, Khan I, Dang VH (2013) Impact of corrosion on mechanical properties of steel embedded in 27-year-old corroded reinforced concrete beams. Mater Struct 46:889–910CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Schweitzer PA (2010) Fundamentals of corrosion: mechanisms, causes and preventive methods. CRC Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Zhu W, François R (2014) Experimental investigation of the relationship between residual cross-section shapes and the ductility of corroded bars. Constr Build Mater 69:335–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Balestra CET et al (2016) Corrosion degree effect on nominal and effective strengths of reinforcement naturally corroded. J Mater Civ Eng 28:04016103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Castro P, Trocónis De Rincon O, Pazini EJ (2001) Interpretation of chloride profile from concrete exposed to tropical marine environments. Cem Concr Res 31:529–537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Trocónis De Rincón O et al (2004) Chloride profile in two marine structures: meaning and some predictions. Build Environ 39:1065–1070CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Medeiros MHF et al (2013) Reinforced concrete in marine environment: effect of wetting and drying cycles, height and positioning in relation to the sea. Constr Build Mater 44:452–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Torres-Luque M et al (2014) Non-destructive methods for measuring chloride ingress into concrete: sate-of-the-art and future challenges. Constr Build Mater 68:68–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Recommendation. TC178-TMC (2013) Testing and modeling chloride penetration in concrete: methods for obtaining dust samples by means of grinding concrete in order to determine the chloride concentration profile. Mater Struct 46:337–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Andrade C, Sagrega JL, Sanjuán MA (2000) Several years study on chloride ion penetration into concrete exposed to Atlantic Ocean Water. In: 2nd International RILEM workshop on testing and modelling the chloride ingress into concrete. Proceedings PRO 19: 2nd International RILEM workshop. Rilem Publications, Paris, pp 121–134Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Otieno M, Beushausen H, Alexander M (2016) Chloride-induced corrosion of steel in cracked concrete. Part I: experimental studies under accelerated and natural marine environments. Cem Concr Res 79:373–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Cheewaket T, Jaturapitakkul C, Chalee W (2010) Long term performance of chloride binding capacity in fly ash concrete in a marine environment. Constr Build Mater 24:1352–1357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Balestra CET (2017) Analysis of chloride profile obtained from real concrete structures present in different marine agressive zones. Doctoral Thesis. Aeronautics Institute of Technology (in Portuguese) Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Caldas LM (2000) Historical research about Arvoredo Island and Fernando Lee Foundation. Fernando Lee Foundation, Guarujá (in Portuguese) Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil EngineeringFederal Technological University of Paraná Campus ToledoToledoBrazil

Personalised recommendations