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The effect of an embedded cathode on lithium migration in mortar specimens

L.M.S. Souza1,2, R.B. Polder1,3, O. Çopuroğlu1

1 Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands
2 Tecgraf Institute, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
3 TNO Technical Sciences/Structural Reliability, Delft, the Netherlands

The currently available treatment techniques for concrete structures affected by alkali-silica reaction (ASR) are limited and electrochemical lithium migration has been proposed as an alternative. Lithium compounds have shown to have beneficial effects on ASR expansion when used as admixtures to fresh concrete. During the electrochemical treatment, lithium ions area transported into concrete (or mortar) by the action of an electrical field. The same principle is behind well-established techniques such as electrochemical chloride extraction (ECE). Like during ECE treatments, the reinforcement may be used as cathode during electrochemical lithium migration.

In this paper, an investigation of the use of an embedded cathode during electrochemical lithium migration is presented. Mortar specimens were cast with embedded titanium meshes, which worked as cathodes. Results showed that potassium and sodium ions accumulated in the region around the embedded mesh and, under the tested conditions, few lithium ions reached that area. The accumulation of sodium and potassium is an undesirable side effect that increases the pH, which may possibly induce further ASR development, if not enough lithium ions reach the area.

Key words: Alkali–silica reaction, migration, lithium, cathode