Ultrasonic Mixing of Cement Paste For Concrete
The ultrasonic mixing of cement paste offers great benefits for precast molding, drycast and concrete plants. This includes: Shorter initial and final set time, lower dosage of superplasticizer, faster and more complete hydration as well as higher compressive strength.
Traditional concrete mixing technologies, such as “on-road-mixing” or rotary mixers provide insufficient mixing action to disperse agglomerates of cement particles and other cementious materials, such as fly ash or silica. While the outer particles of such agglomerates are exposed to water, the inner particle surfaces remain dry. This results in slow and incomplete hydration.
Benefits of Ultrasonic Mixing Technology for Concrete
Ultrasonic dispersing is the most advanced technology to deagglomerate and disperse micron-size and nano-size materials in liquids. Ultrasonic mixing uses cavitational shear forces that are more effective in the mixing of fine size materials than conventional rotary mixers and rotor‑stator mixers. For cement, silica, fly ash, pigments or CNTs, the performance of these materials is significantly increased by ultrasonic dispersing, as it improves the particle distribution and contact with water.
During the hydration – the reaction of cement with water – C‑S‑H‑phases grow needle-like structures. The pictures below show the microstructure in cement paste after 5hrs of hydration. In the ultrasonicated cement paste, the C‑S‑H‑phases are almost 500nm long, while in the unsonicated paste, C‑S‑H‑phases are around 100nm, only.
with ultrasonic processing
without ultrasonic processing
|Portland Cement Paste (CEM I42.5R), C. Rössler (2009) – Bauhaus University Weimar|
The ultrasonic cavitational mixing leads to faster growth of C‑S‑H‑phases.
The growth of C‑S‑H-phases correlates to the temperature in the cement paste during the hydration period (click at right graphic). In the ultrasonically mixed cement paste, the hydration starts approx. one hour earlier. Earlier hydration correlates with earlier increase in compressional strength (click right graphic). The increased hydration speed can be measured by the ultrasound pulse velocity, too.
In particular for precast and drycast concrete, this leads to significantly shorter time until the cast concrete can be taken from the mold. Studies by the Bauhaus University (Germany) showed the following reduction of set times.
|Initial Set||5 hr 15 min||-29%||3 hr 45 min|
|Final Set||6 hr 45 min||-33%||4 hr 30 min|
|Slump||122 mm (4.8″)||+30%||158 mm (6.2″)|
Another interesting benefit of ultrasonic mixing is the influence on the fluidity. As shown in the table above, the slump increases by approx. 30%. This allows for reduced dosage of superplasticizers.
Process Integration of Ultrasonic Mixers into Cement Production
Hielscher offers ultrasonic mixers for the effective dispersing of cement, silica, fly ash, pigments or CNTs. First, any dry material should be premixed with water in order to form a high concentration – yet pumpable paste. The Hielscher ultrasonic mixer, deagglomerates and disperses the particles using cavitational shear. In result, the entire surface of each particle is fully exposed to water.
Ultrasonic Processing of Cement Paste
In the case of cement paste, hydration starts after ultrasonic processing. Therefore, the Hielscher ultrasonic mixer should be used inline, as the cement paste cannot be stored for long periods. The schematic drawing below illustrates the process. In the next step, the aggregate, such as sand or gravel is added and mixed with the cement paste. As the cement particles are already well dispersed at that stage, the cement paste blends well with the aggregate. The concrete is then ready to be filled into precast molds or for transportation. A break-up tank next to the ultrasonic mixer may be used to process more continuously in case of unsteady concrete demand.
The dispersing of silica, fly ash, pigments or other nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes, requires other processing intensities and energy levels. For this reason we recommend a separate ultrasonic mixer to produce a well dispersed slurry/paste that is then added to the concrete mix. Please click at the graphic above for a schematic drawing of this process.
The ultrasonic mixing equipment needed for scale up can be determined exactly based on pilot scale tests using a UIP1000hd set (1,000 watts). The table below shows general device recommendations depending on the batch volume or flow rate of cement paste to be processed.
|Batch Volume||Flow Rate||Recommended Devices|
|0.1 to 10L||0.2 to 2L/min||UIP1000hdT, UIP1500hdT|
|10 to 50L||2 to 10L/min||UIP4000hdT|
|15 to 150L||3 to 15L/min||UIP6000hdT|
|n.a.||10 to 50L/min||UIP16000|
|n.a.||larger||cluster of UIP16000|
With up to 16kW of ultrasonic mixing power per single device, Hielscher offers the processing power required for high volume applications. This technology is easy to test and scales up linear.
- S. Perters; M. Stöckigt; C. Rössler (2009): Influence of Power-Ultrasound on the Fluidity and Setting of Portland Cement Pastes; at: 17th International Conference on Building Materials 23rd – 26th September 2009, Weimar.
- C. Rössler (2009): Einfluss von Power-Ultraschall auf das Fließ- und Erstarrungsverhalten von Zementsuspensionen; in: Tagungsband der 17. Internationalen Baustofftagung ibausil, Hrsg. Finger-Institut für Baustoffkunde, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, S. 1 – 0259 – 1 – 0264.
- Ganjian, Esmaiel; Ehsani, Ahmad; Mason, Timothy; Tyrer, Mark (2018): Application of power ultrasound to cementitious materials: Advances, issues and perspectives. Materials & Design 160, 2018. 503-513.