Argonne scientists discover new way to diagnose cracks in concrete | Argonne National Laboratory

A chemical reaction that causes concrete to crack and deteriorate can now be identified without harm, according to Argonne scientists.

(Image by Shutterstock / Budimir Jevtic.)
Although they are built to last for decades, bridges, dams, nuclear plants and other concrete structures are far from indestructible. One culprit is the alkali-silica reaction (ASR), often referred to as the “cancer” of concrete.

ASR is a reaction between alkali ions found in cement and silica — the two main components of concrete. The reaction creates a gel that absorbs water and expands, causing internal pressures to build up within the concrete. Over time, this pressure can cause concrete structures to crack and deteriorate. There is currently no effective cure for ASR in concrete, and it is both destructive and time-consuming to identify it in existing structures.
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