The mechanical properties of cement mortars with 0~2.0% (by mass) polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) were experimentally studied, and the effects of PVA incorporation on the hydration products and microstructure of the cement mortar were determined with differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The results show that the rational content of PVA formed evenly dispersed network-like thin films within the cement matrix, and these network-like films can bridge cracks in the cement matrix and improve the mechanical properties of the cement mortar. Over- incorporation of PVA may result in the formation of large piece polymer films that coat the cement particles, delay the hydration of the cement mortar and adversely affect its performance. The mechanical properties of the cement mortar show a significant increase and then decrease with a change in the PVA incorporation. When the PVA content was 0.6% and 1.0%, the mortar had the best compressive and flexural strengths, respectively. The compressive strength of the cement mortar increased by 12.15% for a PVA content of 0.6%, and the flexural strength of the cement mortar increased by 24.83% for a PVA content of 1.0%.
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