This research article will describe the design and use of polyelectrolyte hydrogel particles as internal curing agents in concrete and present new results on relevant hydrogel-ion interactions. When incorporated into concrete, hydrogel particles release their stored water to fuel the curing reaction, resulting in reduced volumetric shrinkage and cracking and thus increasing concrete service life. The hydrogel’s swelling performance and mechanical properties are strongly sensitive to multivalent cations that are naturally present in concrete mixtures, including calcium and aluminum. Model poly(acrylic acid(AA)-acrylamide(AM))-based hydrogel particles with different chemical compositions (AA:AM monomer ratio) were synthesized and immersed in sodium, calcium, and aluminum salt solutions. The presence of multivalent cations resulted in decreased swelling capacity and altered swelling kinetics to the point where some hydrogel compositions displayed rapid deswelling behavior and the formation of a mechanically stiff shell. Interestingly, when incorporated into mortar, hydrogel particles reduced mixture shrinkage while encouraging the formation of specific inorganic phases (calcium hydroxide and calcium silicate hydrate) within the void space previously occupied by the swollen particle.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited