Synthesis and Characterization of Superabsorbent Polymer Hydrogels Used as Internal Curing Agents: Impact of Particle Shape on Mortar Compressive Strength

  • Stacey L. Kelly
  • Matthew J. Krafcik
  • Kendra A. Erk
Conference paper


Superabsorbent polymer hydrogels have proven to be effective internal curing agents for high-performance concrete because of their ability to absorb and release large amounts of water during hydration and thus mitigate autogenous shrinkage. In this study, the impact of hydrogel particle shape on the microstructure and compressive strength of internally cured mortar was experimentally determined. Inverse suspension polymerization was used to synthesize spherical poly(sodium-acrylate acrylamide) hydrogel particles, while solution polymerization was used to create similarly sized angular particles with identical chemical composition. The hydrogels were characterized with swelling tests in water and cement pore solution. Particle shape did not impact the swelling behavior, and micrographs confirmed that the particles maintained their shape during mixing and placement. Despite the introduction of spherical- and angular-shaped voids from the swollen hydrogel particles, there were no significant differences observed between the compressive strengths of the control mortar and the mortars containing either the spherical or angular hydrogel particles.


  1. 1.
    Mignon, A., Snoeck, D., Dubruel, P., Vlierberghe, S. V., & Belie, N. D. (2017). Crack mitigation in concrete: superabsorbent polymers as key to success? Materials, 10(3), 237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Jensen, O. M., & Lura, P. (2006). Techniques and materials for internal water curing of concrete. Materials and Structures, 39, 817–825.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Snoeck, D., Schaubroeck, D., Dubruel, P., & Belie, N. D. (2014). Effect of high amounts of superabsorbent polymers and additional water on the workability, microstructure and strength of mortars with a water-to-cement ratio of 0.50. Construction and Building Materials, 72, 148–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Snoeck, D. (2015). Self-healing and microstructure of cementitious materials with microfibres and superabsorbent polymers. Dissertation, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Mechtcherine, V., et al. (2014). Effect of internal curing by using superabsorbent polymers (SAP) on autogenous shrinkage and other properties of a high-performance fine-grained concrete: results of a RILEM round-robin test. Materials and Structures, 47(3), 541–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Krafcik, M. J., & Erk, K. A. (2016). Characterization of superabsorbent poly(sodium-acrylate acrylamide) hydrogels and influence of chemical structure on internally cured mortar. Materials and Structures, 49, 4765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kelly, S. L. (2017). Inverse Suspension Polymerization of Superabsorbent Polymer (SAP) Hydrogels for Internally Cured Concrete. Master’s thesis, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    ASTM C109–16a. (2016). Standard test method for compressive strength of hydraulic cement mortars. West Conshohocken, PA: ASTM International.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Zhu, Q., Barney, C. W., & Erk, K. A. (2015). Effect of ionic crosslinking on the swelling and mechanical response of model superabsorbent polymer hydrogels for internally cured concrete. Materials and Structures, 48, 2261–2276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Sun, J. Y., Zhao, X., Illeperuma, W. R. K., Chaudhuri, O., Oh, K. H., Mooney, D. J., & Suo, Z. (2012). Highly stretchable and tough hydrogels. Nature, 489(7414), 133–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Bažant, Z. P., & Oh, B. H. (1983). Crack band theory for fracture of concrete. Materials and Structures, 16(3), 155–177.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stacey L. Kelly
    • 1
  • Matthew J. Krafcik
    • 1
  • Kendra A. Erk
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Materials EngineeringPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations