This study investigates the effects of set retarders on the properties of polymer-modified calcium sulfoaluminate (CSA) and Portland cement blend systems at early and long-term ages. The fast setting of the cement blend systems is typically adjusted by using retarders to ensure an adequate workability. However, how the addition of retarders influences the age-dependent characteristics of the cement blend systems was rarely investigated. This study particularly examines the effects of retarders on the microstructure and strength development of polymer-modified CSA and Portland cement blend pastes and mortars from 2 h to 90 days. The macro- and microstructural properties are characterized by compression testing, powder X-ray diffraction, mercury intrusion porosimetry, and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy. The test results reveal that the use of retarders delayed the strength development of the cement blend systems at the very early age by hindering the production of ettringite, which was cumulative to the delaying effect of polymer, but it increased the ultimate strength by creating denser and finer pore structures with the evolution of hydration products.
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