This study comparably assessed the pozzolanic effect of silica fume (SF) and ground rice husk ash (RHA) as supplementary cementing materials on the properties of blended cement pastes and concretes. A commonly commercial silica fume (SF) and locally-produced rice husk ash (RHA) samples with two finenesses (one with larger size than cement and the other with smaller size than cement) were used in this study. Material properties of SF and RHA were experimentally characterized. Hydration and mechanical properties of cement pastes incorporating SF and RHA were determined by thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) and compressive strength tests, respectively. Properties of concretes regarding workability, mechanical property, durability, and microstructure were evaluated. Results showed that, although the finely ground RHA used in this study possessed lower SiO2
content and higher particle size compared to SF, it exhibited comparable pozzolanic reactivity with SF due to the nano-scale pores on its each single particle, leading to a higher specific surface area. The optimal replacement levels of SF and RHA were 10% by weight of cement in pastes and concretes. Although addition of SF and RHA led to a significant reduction in slump for the fresh mixtures, inclusion of up to 30% of SF or 15% of ground RHA did not adversely affect the strength of concretes. At the same mix, incorporation of finely-ground RHA in cement composites provided comparable mechanical properties, hydration degree, and durability with SF blended cement composites, owing to the porous structure and high specific surface area of RHA particles. Microstructure morphology analysis of concretes explored by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) further validated the strength and the durability test results.
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