In this paper, the effect of HPMC (hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose ether) on the cement mortar water retention (WR) and composition was studied. The relationship between the plastic viscosity and water retention of cement mortar was revealed. The results showed that HPMC formed a colloidal film with a 3D network structure in water, which changed the ability of water to migrate. The HPMC colloid adsorbed on the surface of cement and sand particles and played a bridging role due to the influence of the spatial network structure of the thin film. Fine particles formed a grid-like distribution, and the hydration products formed a unique fibrous tree-like structure. A positive correlation was observed between the plastic viscosity and the water holding capacity of cement mortar. Finally, the mechanism responsible for the improved water retention of cement mortar by HPMC was analyzed using the changing water migration capacity, migration channels, and mortar cohesion.
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