A thermoanalytical, X-ray diffraction and petrographic approach to the forensic assessment of fire affected concrete in the United Arab Emirates

M. A. Alqassim (Lead / Corresponding author), M. R. Jones, L. E. A. Berlouis, N. Nic Daeid

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Abstract

For most fires, forensic investigation takes place well after building materials have cooled and knowledge of the structural damage due to heat exposure can reveal the temperature reached during an incident. Recently, there have been significant changes in the types and hence characteristics of cementitious materials used in the United Arab Emirates. Few studies focus on the application of thermo-analytical, X-ray diffraction and petrographic techniques on newly developed structures and this work aims to address this deficiency by utilising a series of parametric laboratory-based tests to assess the effects of heat on hardened concrete. Specimens were made with a design mix typically used for low-rise residential homes and storage facilities. The key constituents were: Portland cement (PC), crushed gabbro stone and dune sand with water/cement ratios of 0.4–0.5. Portland cement substitutes included ground granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBS), and silica fume (SF) at replacement percentages of up to 50% and 4%, respectively. The concrete cubes of 100-mm size were produced and standard cured to 28 days and then exposed to heat inside an electric furnace with pre-determined temperature regimes of 150 °C, 300 °C, 600 °C and 900 °C. Petrographic examination was utilised to compare the discolouration of the cooled concrete. Data derived from thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) are reported in order to assess the usefulness of these techniques in fire scene investigation to differentiate between these temperature regimes. The results from the TGA indicate that the majority of the percentage weight loss for all the mixtures occurred in the range 650–700 °C, which corresponds to the decarbonation of calcium carbonate, mainly from the aggregates. The endothermic DSC peak at 70–120 °C relates to the loss of evaporable water. Since both of these reactions are irreversible, this information can help fire investigators estimate the temperature history of concrete after exposure to fire. On the other hand, the portlandite in the cement matrix dehydroxylates at 450–550 °C but then reforms as the concrete cools. The onset temperature for the dehydroxylation of the reformed mineral is always lower than in virgin samples and its enthalpy furthermore depends strongly on the thermal history of the portlandite. Thus, this feature can be used to establish the temperature to which the material was exposed to during a fire incident.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-88
Number of pages7
JournalForensic Science International
Volume264
Early online date19 Mar 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016
Event7th European Academy of Forensic Science Conference - Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 6 Sep 201511 Sep 2015
http://www.eafs2015.eu/

Keywords

  • Colour change
  • Concrete
  • Fire
  • Forensic investigation
  • Thermal analysis
  • X-ray diffraction

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