Self Compacting Concrete: Powder Material Options

Trends and Challenges in Structural Engineering and Construction Technology


Self compacting concrete (SCC) does not require mechanical means to compact it,  when placed in reinforced concrete members. It flows and fills in all the corners  with self weight only and does not segregate. The method for achieving self compactability  involves not only high deformability of the paste or mortar but also  resistance to segregation between coarse aggregate and mortar when the concrete  flows through the confined zones of  inforcing bars. A highly viscous paste is  required to avoid the blockage of coarse aggregate when concrete flows through  obstacles. The materials used in SCC are the same as in conventional concrete  except that an excess of fine material is used. Median particle size of this extra ‘powder’ material in SCC affects both yield stress and viscosity (higher values for lower median particle size,  Pedersen and Mortsell have illustrated that the  particle size distribution and the specific surface area of the fillers are of great  importance for the rheological properties of the matrix in SCC.

This paper reviews test results reported in literature with alternative powder  materials, mainly, limestone powder and flyash. A comparative evaluation is
presented. The test results of an experimental study performed by the authors  exploiting the characteristic properties of flyash are also included.


To limit the segregation and bleeding in self compacting concrete, fine powder/s with particles less than 0.125 mm are required in the range of 400-600 kg per cubic metre of concrete15. The ordinary portland cement (OPC) has ninety nine percent of its particles less than 0.090 mm size and almost hundred percent smaller than 0.125 mm. Hence, OPC qualifies as the primary “powder” material for SCC. Other supplementary powder materials useful in SCC includes flyash, ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBFS) powder and limestone (LS) powder etc.

Petersson (2002) has reported that the compressive strength is significantly higher  using the limestone filler for SCC than with fine aggregate as filler (0-2 mm size)17.  The average particle size of the material should be in the range of 100 μm-30 μm to  yield a desirable plastic viscosity of more than 40 Pa

Blast furnace slag in fine powder form is obtained by pulverizing the granulated slag  to fine powder and increasing its hydration reactivity. With the advancements in  grinding and separating technologies in recent years, it has become possible to  manufacture much finer pulverized powder with a higher fineness (greater than  1,000 m2/kg) compared to the blast furnace slag in powder form with a fineness 340  m2/kg to 440 m2/kg used in conventional portland slag cements. High fineness  ground blast furnace slag powder does not initiate complete hydration immediately  after contact with water, as in the case of clinker particles. Moreover, since the  surface of the particles is glassy and smooth, even if high fineness blast furnace slag  powder is used as the concrete material, adverse effects such as increase in the unit  water content, do not occur. It has been reported from rheological studies on paste  using a rotational viscometer that the thixotropicity of paste incorporating finefineness  blast furnace slag powder decreases compared to ordinary portland cement.

So, it has been used as a supplementary powder material in SCC.  Dry flyash collected from electrostatic precipitators in coal based thermal power  plants has its intrinsic particle size below 0.125mm. Granulometry, chemical and  mineralogical characteristic of flyash help in the strength development and  durability of normal cement concrete (Mehta, 1985, Malhotra and Ramezanianpour,  1994)10,11. This applies to SCC too. In last one decade, this area of application of  flyash has attracted attention of many researchers and construction industries  (Bouzoubaa and Lachemi, 2001, Raghavan et al, 2002, Vengala et al, 2003, Kumar  et al, 2004 and Bapat et al, 2004).  Among the three options of the powder materials described above, flyash has its  intrinsic particle size in the desired range, whereas the other two materials need  pulverisation of the parent material for transformation into the specified particle size  range. This ‘extra’ process required in the case of GGBFS and LS enhances the cost  of these materials even up-to the cost of cement. On the other hand, flyash is  available at comparatively lesser price, particularly in India.

There are more than one hundred coal based thermal power stations in India, out of  which more than fifty percent have installed facility of delivery of ‘dry flyash’  collected in electrostatic precipitators. This ‘dry flyash’ is available in ‘raw form’ in  a distance range of one hundred kilometers around the thermal power stations from  contractors and transporters operating at different locations in the country at a price  ranging from one sixth to one fourth to that of cement. IS 3812-2003 has specified  the general physical and chemical property specifications for flyash for use in  cement concrete as an admixture7. This requires a minimum fineness equal to 200  m2/kg and maximum residue on the 45 μm sieve equal to 50. Generally, the ‘dry  flyash’ available from the thirty thermal power stations spread across the country,  conforms to these physical requirements. The flyash from captive thermal power stations is in general found to contain larger content of un-burnt carbon than allowed, i.e. the value of the ‘loss on ignition’ is greater than 5.0. Particles of the ‘un-burnt carbon’ absorb some of the super-plasticiser (SP) and hence less SP remains available for reduction of water demand/imparting flow-ability in SCC.

Beneficiated/Processed/Segregated flyash is recommended for use in case where the ‘raw flyash’ does not meet the specifications of IS 38127. Processed flyash is available commercially in many countries including India.


Flyash when added in cement concrete plays both active and passive roles in the concrete mass. The main effects are summarized below:

1. Proper quality flyash addition up-to some proportion helps in reducing the water demand of the concrete. The value of the ‘limiting proportion’ depends upon the quality of the flyash.
2. The flyash addition helps concrete to behave as a cohesive mass in fresh state and reduces the risk of segregation and bleeding of concrete.
3. Some part of it reacts with calcium hydroxide (which is produced during the hydration reaction of the cement), and forms compounds which exhibit similar mechanical properties as those exhibited by hydration products of the cement.
4. Smaller un-reacted particles fill the voids and densify the matrix through decreasing the amount of bigger pores.
5. Presence of flyash in concrete promotes the hydration of cement.

The first four effects as enumerated above are well described by Neville, Papadakis, Malhotra and Ramezanianpour, Mehta and Monterio, Montgomery et al and many other researchers. Gopalan suggested that flyash particles act as nuclei for growth of hydration products and pozzolanic reactions occurs thereafter6. The ‘microaggregate’ effect of flyash particle has been described amply in the literature of CANMET and other researchers involved in high volume flyash concrete10,25.

Wang et al published test data which support the hypothesis of enhancement of cement hydration due to the presence of flyash particles24. With the increase of the content of flyash, the hydration degree of cement increases, but the pozzolanic degree of flyash reduces24.


Most of the investigations utilized mix proportioning guidelines as suggested by Okamura and his co-workers to obtain a SCC mix through keeping water to powder (w/p) ratio in the range of 0.90 to 1.10. This limit of w/p does not consider powder material characteristics, i.e. whether limestone powder or flyash has been used.

When proper quality flyash is used, it reduces water demand of concrete10. This property of flyash can be of specific use in SCC.
Cement content required to develop a target compressive strength can become quite low, in case ‘processed’ flyash is used. It is illustrated from the test results of Bapat et al provided in Table 1. Due to high cost associated with the ‘processed’ flyash,

mostly ‘raw’ flyash is used. Use of a small quantity of micro-silica in association
with such flyashes can form a good option in SCC. Mittal et al used such ternary
combination for SCC in the construction of an atomic power plant12.
Table 1 provides details of some other typical SCC mixes reported in literature with
flyash as well as limestone powder. Also shown is a typical mix developed by the
authors for high strength self compacting concrete using flyash as about 40 % of the
binder material content. The flyash used in the M6 mix was ‘raw flyash’, and
obtained from a thermal power station situated in North India8.
A comparison of the mixes M1 and M2 show that replacement of limestone powder
by flyash is beneficial in SCC. M3 mix contains a substantial content of micro-silica,
which is known to accelerate early age strength gain, but is a lot costlier than flyash.
Present cost of the micro-silica is about seven- eight times that of cement in India.
Authors investigated use of a lower content of micro-silica in association with ‘raw’
flyash to produce high strength SCC. M6 provides a typical mix proportion
developed. It may be mentioned here, that the compressive strength goes on
increasing further beyond 28 days in the case of flyash based mix, and was observed
to be about 76, 83 and 88 MPa at the 90, 135 and 180 days ages respectively7.
A comparison of mixes M4 and M5 in Table 1 illustrate that with an increase in the
flyash proportion, early age strength reduces, but the strengths attained at 28 days
age is almost similar. It may be noted that the full service load generally come on a
structure not before 28 days age, hence the higher proportion of the flyash, as used
in the mix M5 may be used in majority of the cases.


All effects of flyash put together makes resulting concrete less permeable and more
durable than without it12. The interfacial transition zone is the ‘weakest link’ in
concrete affecting its strength and to some extent its durability as well12. In a
concrete made with cement as the only binder material, the transition zone consists
of more porosity than bulk of the hydrated concrete mass. A lot of calcium
hydroxide crystals remain present adjacent to the aggregate surface. These can
dissolve in case some water finds its way inside in the hardened concrete mass,
which leads to loss of strength and loss of durability12. The use of flyash in the SCC
is observed to reduce pores of the transition zone and consumption of the calcium
hydroxide9. Fig. 2 provides a typical microstructure of the transition zone observed
by the first author in case of SCC containing high volume flyash8. It shows ample
number of flyash particles embedded in the zone near to the aggregate, acting as the
‘micro-aggregates’. This densification of the transition zone leads to better
mechanical and durability properties.8.
Nehdi et al investigated chloride penetrability and sulfate expansion of SCC made
with cement alone as the powder material, as well as that with cement and flyash as
the powder13. The SCC with 50 % OPC and 50 % flyash is shown to exhibit considerably lower chloride penetration (about one fourth) than the concrete with
OPC alone. Sulfate expansion value of about half was recorded by the investigators
in the case of SCC made with 50 % cement + 50 % flyash.
The microstructure studies by the authors and the chemical penetration study by
Nehdi et al put together illustrate better durability attributes in the SCC made using
flyash in large proportion (about 35 % or even more of the total powder material in
the SCC).


Limestone powder, GGBFS and flyash may constitute as the supplementary powder material in SCC. Flyash has emerged as a preferred material due to its various associated advantages in SCC mix proportioning

1. Bapat, S. G., Kulkarni, S. B. and Bandekar, K. S. (2004), “Using SCC in
Nuclear Power Plants- Laboratory and Mock up Trials at Kaiga”, Indian
Concrete Journal, Vol. 78, No. 6, pp. 51-57.
2. Billberg (2001), Peter (2001), “Influence of Filler Characteristics on SCC
Rheologyand Early Hydration”, Proceedings of the Second International
Symposium on Self
3. Compacting Concrete, Edited by K. Ozawa and M. Ouchi, 23-25
October,2001, Tokyo, Japan, pp. 285-294.
4. Bouzoubaa, N. and Lachemi, M. (2001), “Self Compacting Concrete
IncorporatingHigh Volumes of Class F Flyash”, Cement and Concrete
Research, Vol.31, No.3,pp. 413-420.
5. Gomes (2002), “Optimisation and Characterisation of High Strength Self
CompactingConcrete”, Ph.D. thesis, University Polytechnic, Barcelona.
6. Gopalan, M. K. (1993), “Nucleation and Pozzolanic Factors in Strength
Development of Class F Flyash Concrete”, ACI Materials Journal, Vol. 90,
No. 2, pp. 117-121. Indian Standard Specifications for Pulverised Fuel Ash,
Part 2- For Use as Admixture in Cement Mortar and Concrete, IS 3812:
2003, Bureau of Indian Standards, New Delhi.
7. Kumar, Praveen (2005), “Development and Structural Properties of Self
Compacting Concrete with Ternary Mixes”, Ph.D. thesis, Indian Institute of
Technology, Roorkee, India.
8. Kumar, Praveen, Haq, Mohd.Ajazul, and Kaushik, S. K. (2004), “Early Age
Strength of SCC with Large Volumes of Flyash”, Indian Concrete Journal,
Vol.78,No. 6, pp. 25-29.
9. Malhotra, V. M. and Ramezanianpour, A. A. (1994), “Flyash in Concrete”,
CANMET publication.
10. Mehta, P. K. (1985), “Influence of Flyash Characteristics on the Strength of
Portland-Flyash Mixture”, Cement and Concrete Research, Vol.15, pp. 669-

11. Mehta, P. K. and Monteiro, P. J. M. (1999), “Concrete- Microstructure,
Properties and Materials”, Indian Concrete Institute.
12. Mittal, Amit, Kaisare, M. B. and Shetti, R. G. (2004), “Use of SCC in a
Pump House at TAPP 3 & 4, Tarapur”, Indian Concrete Journal, Vol.78,
No. 6, pp. 30 -34.
13. Nehdi, M., Pradhan, M. and Koshowski, S. (2004), “Durability of Self-
Consolidating Concrete Incorporating High- Volume Replacement
CompositeCements”,Cement and Concrete Research, Vol. 34.
14. Neville, A. M. (2000), “Properties of Concrete”, LONGMAN, pp.300.
Okamura, H., Ozawa, K. and Ouchi, M. (2000), “Self Compacting
Concrete”,Structural Concrete, No.1, pp. 3-17.
15. Papadakis, V. G. (1999), “Effect of Flyash on Portland Cement Systems”,
Cement and Concrete Research, Vol.29, pp. 1727-1736.
16. Petersson, O. (2002), “Limestone Powder as Filler in Self Compacting
Concrete-Frost Resistance, Compressive Strength and Chloride Diffusivity”,
Proc. FirstNorth American Conference on the Design and Use of Self-
ConsolidatingConcrete, Editors, S. P. Shah, J. A. Daczko and J. N.
Lingscheit, Nov. 12-13, 2002.
17. Raghavan, k. P., Sarma, B. Sivarama and Chattopadhyay, D. (2002),
“Creep,Shrinkage and Chloride Permeability Properties of Self-
ConsolidatingConcrete”, Proc. First North American Conference on the
Design and Use ofSelf- Consolidating Concrete, Editors, S. P. Shah, J. A.
Daczko and J. N.Lingscheit, Nov. 12-13, 2002, pp. 307-311.
18. Rajamane, N. P., Peter, J. A. , Gopalakrishnan, S. And Lakshmanan, N.
(2003),“A Technical Review on Properties of Self- Compacting
Concretes”,Proceedings, International Conference on Recent Trends in
Concrete Technology and Structures”, pp. 330-340.
19. Sivasundaram,V., Carette, G.S. and Malhotra, V.M., Mechanical properties,
creep, and resistance to diffusion of chloride ions of concretes incorporating
high volumes of ASTM class F flyashes from seven different sources, ACI
Materials Journal, 1991, Vol. 88, No. 4, pp. 407-416. Specification and
Guidelines of Self- Compacting Concrete, EFNARC, November, 2001,
20. Subramanian, S. and Chattopadhyay, D. (2002), “Experiments for Mix
Proportioning of Self Compacting Concrete”, Indian Concrete Journal,
Vol.76,No.1, pp. 13-20.
21. Vengala, J., Sudarshan, M.S. and Ranganath, R. V. (2003), “Experimental
Study for Obtaining Self- Compacting Concrete”, Indian Concrete Journal,
Vol. 77, No. 8, pp. 1261-1266.
22. Wang, A., Zhang, C. and Sun, W. (2004), “Flyash Effects II. The Active
Effect of Flyash”, Cement and Concrete Research, Vol. 34, No. 11, pp.
23. Wang, A., Zhang, C. and Sun, W. (2004), “Flyash Effects III. The Micro –
aggregate Effect of Flyash”, Cement and Concrete Research, Vol. 34, No.
11, pp. 2061-2066.

Table 1 Comparative Performance of SCC Mixes with Limestone Powder / Flyash

About The Author

Author: Civil Engineer

Hello, My self Neelmani, A Civil Engineer. Presently I am working with Indian Railway. An Affiliate Member of ASCE "American Society of Civil Engineers". B.Tech in Civil Engineering from MIT Muzaffarpur and Diploma in Railway from IPWE as well as Civil Engineering from Govt. Polytechnic Muzaffarpur.

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