Mechanics, Materials Science & Engineering, September 2017 ISSN 2412-5954
MMSE Journal. Open Access www.mmse.xyz
The Effect of Rice Husk Ash on the Strength and Durability of Concrete at High
Replacement Ratio
1
Binyamien I. Rasoul
1,a
, Friederike K. Gunzel
1,b
, M. Imran Rafiq
1,c
1− School of Environment & Technology, University of Brighton, UK
a B.Rasoul@brighton.ac.uk
b f.k.gunzel@brighton.ac.uk
c M.Rafiq@brighton.ac.uk
DOI 10.2412/mmse.31.86.30 provided by Seo4U.link
Keywords: concrete strength, durability, chloride ion, non-steady-state migration test, rice husk ash, pozzlanic activity.
ABSTRACT. The objective of this study is to investigate the effects of Rice Husk Ash, with different replacement levels,
on the strength and durability of concrete. Three types of rice husk ash with different chemical composition and physical
properties were used for this study. Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) type 52.5 N was replaced with 5%, 10%, 15%,
20%, 30%, 40% and 50% RHA (by weight) for strength test, additional samples with 60% RHA replacement were used
for durability experiments. The ratio of water/cementitious material was kept at a constant value of 0.50. Superplasticizer
was used to maintain a consistent workability of the fresh concrete. The compressive strength was measured after 7, 28
and 90 days, while splitting tensile strength was obtained at age of 28 and 90 days. The migration coefficient of chloride
ion penetration was evaluated using non-steady-state migration tests [1] at 28 days age. The results revealed that the RHA
properties (silica form, fineness, silica percentage and loss on ignition) have a direct impact on the development of strength
at long-term age [2]. Experiments showed that even with 50% replacement of OPC with RHA, concrete has a higher
strength and durability performance compared to OPC concrete. This may be attributed to the fact that increasing
replacement ratios of RHA leads to a reduction in porosity, which in turn increases the strength and durability of concrete.
Introduction. Improving the concrete’s performance by utilizing industrial and agricultural waste as
supplementary cementitious materials is gaining popularity amongst researchers in recent years [3].
Pozzolanic materials such as fly ash, silica fume, ground granulated blast furnace slag and rice husk
ash are by-products of other industries, containing high amounts of amorphous silica. This leads to a
pozzolanic reaction the released calcium hydroxide of cement hydration process making these
materials a suitable blending material for OPC. Rice husk ash is produce annually in huge quantities
[4] by incinerating rice husk in electric power stations or by incinerating the husk at agricultural
fields. The annual production of rice according to [5] in 2013 was 730.2 million tons. Rice husk is
generally estimated about 20% of the plant weight and the ash is about 20% of the husk weight [6].
This huge amount of rice husk beside of environment dumping problem. Key ingredient of the RHA
is reactive amorphous silica that reacts with calcium hydroxide liberated by cement hydration in
concrete matrix to produce dense calcium silicate hydrates (CSH) that is mainly responsible for
improved concrete performance [7].
Many studies investigated the effect of RHA blended cement in concrete mixtures; some include the
effect of RHA on the strength and durability. However, there are many discrepancies in the results.
For example, Mehta [6] found higher strength in concrete with up to 50% RHA compared to the OPC
control, even as early as 3 days. Similarly, Isaia et al. [8] found that replacing cement by 50% RHA
achieved the same strength as the OPC concrete.
1
© 2017 The Authors. Published by Magnolithe GmbH. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Mechanics, Materials Science & Engineering, September 2017 ISSN 2412-5954
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On the other hand, many authors report only much lower replacement percentages as possible:
Ganesan et al. [9] found that only up to 30% of OPC could be replaced with RHA without detrimental
effects. Ettu et al. [10] report these as 15% RHA replacement without any reduction in strength. The
optimum level of cement replacement with RHA was found to be between 10% and 20% according
to Safiuddin [11]. Leong [12] reported that up to 5% of cement replacement by RHA increase the
strength compare to OPC concrete. Madandoust et al. [13] and Marthong [14] show reduction in
compressive strength for all RHA blended concrete compared to the OPC control. The positive effects
of RHA on the concrete performance were attributed to the high content of amorphous silica and the
very high surface area of the particles [8] and the particle characteristics such as shapes (spherical to
un-regular ratio) [11].
Durability it is another important concrete property, which can be defined as the capability of concrete
to resist weathering action and chemical attack. Many studies have investigated the impact of
replacement of cement with RHA to enhance the performance of concrete [15]. However, the
relationship between the physical and chemical properties of RHA to the level of replacement that
can be used to reduce chloride ion penetration, is currently not fully understood. Madandoust et al.
[13] concluded that blending Portland cement with RHA prevents the diffusion of Cl
¯
. The
improvement is mainly caused by the reduction of permeability/diffusivity in blended concrete. As
with the compressive strength, contradicting results are reported in the literature: some authors found
that blending cement with up to 40% RHA increases corrosion resistance [16]. On the other hand,
other authors reported a maximum of only 15% [18] to 25% [9], [17] of RHA to have a positive effect
on the diffusion coefficient. The objectives of this study are to improve the understanding of the
effects of the chemical and physical properties of the RHA on the concrete performance and to
investigate the contradiction in literature data on the effect of RHA properties on the strength and
chloride ion diffusion with the aim to find the optimum replacement ratio of cement by RHA
depending on the properties of the RHA.
Research Programme.
A. Materials
1) Cement: The compositions of the cement (Rugby CEM I 52.5N) used in concrete blended RHA
mixtures provided by the manufacturer (CEMEX UK Cement Ltd) is given in Table 1.
Table 1. Physical and Chemical Properties of OPC (CEM i 52.5n).
Physical properties
Specific Surface area 450m
2
/kg
Initial setting time 130 minutes
Chemical compounds (% of total cement mass)
CaO
SiO
2
Fe
2
O
3
Al
2
O
3
MgO
Na
2
O
Clˉ
FL
*
LOI
63.8
19.9
3.10
4.80
1.10
0.70
0.06
3.0
2.70
*
FL = Free Lime
2) Rice Husk Ash: Three different types of RHA were used as a partial replacement with cement. The
rice husk ash was provided by Navdanya Food PVT LTD Odisha, India. X-ray fluorescence was used
to determine the chemical composition, while the physical properties (particle size distribution and
specific surface area) were obtained with a laser diffractometer Mastersizer 2000 particle size
analyzer. The physical properties and chemical composition are given in Tables 2 and 3 respectively.
Mechanics, Materials Science & Engineering, September 2017 ISSN 2412-5954
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Table 2. Physical Properties of RHA Types.
RHA type
Specific
surface area
(m
2
/kg)
Mean particle
size (µm)
Reactive
silica( % of
total RHA
weight)
Colour
RHA-A
RHA-B
RHA-C
537
587
691
23.397
20.948
15.804
69%
80%
84%
Grey
Dark Grey
Black
Table 3. Chemical Composition of RHA Types (% of Total Mass).
RHA type
SiO
2
Al
2
O
3
Fe
2
O
3
CaO
MgO
Na
2
O
K
2
O
P
2
O
5
SO
3
MnO
LOI*
RHA-A
92.10
1.07
0.24
0.72
-
-
1.37
0.40
0.08
0.11
3.80
RHA-B
89.31
1.39
0.39
0.99
-
-
1.81
0.75
1.10
0.17
5.10
RHA-C
84.30
1.07
0.18
0.73
-
-
1.52
0.68
0.08
0.14
11.35
*LOI: Loss on ignition of rice husk ash at 975±25°C for 15 minutes according to EN 196-2:1994
Table 4. Properties of Fine Aggregate (Sand).
Sieve aperture
Weight (g)
Percentage (%)
Cumulative passing (%)
4mm
11
2.2
97.8
2.8mm
43
8.6
89.2
1.4 mm
97
19.4
69.9
600μm
140
27.9
41.9
300μm
159
31.7
10.2
150μm
45
9.0
1.2
75μm
4.0
0.8
0.4
63μm
1.0
0.2
0.2
Pan
-
-
-
Table 5. Properties of Coarse Aggregate (Gravel).
Sieve aperture
Weight (g)
Percentage (%)
Cumulative passing (%)
9.5 mm
15
3.0
97.1
8.0 mm
48
9.6
87.5
4.0 mm
341
68.1
19.4
Pan
97
19.4
-
3) Fine Aggregate: The sieve analysis of fine aggregate (sand) according to British Standard BS EN
12620 [19] is presented in Table 4.
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4) Coarse Aggregate: Uncrushed gravel (maximum size 10 mm) was used as coarse aggregate
according to the British Standard BS EN 12620 [19]. The sieve analysis of aggregates is presented in
Table 5.
5) Superplasticizer: Fosroc Auracast 200 superplasticizer was used in the experimental work.
According to the manufacturer, the Fosroc Auracast 200 has a high range water reducing capabilities
and excellent scattering levels with strong performance. The main objective of using superplasticizer
is to increase the workability of concrete blended RHA in order to require little vibration during
casting.
B. Experimental Procedure
1) Strength of Concrete: The mix design for concrete was based on British mix design method (DOE)
[20]. The target mean strength was 50 MPa for the OPC control mixture at 28 days. Details of the
mix proportion of the concrete mixes are presented in Table 6. The water to binder ratio (w/b) kept
constant at 0.50 as well as the portion of fine aggregate (785 kg/m
3
) and coarse aggregate (800 kg/m
3
);
superplasticizer was used to keep the workability to a slump of 50-200 mm. The total time of mixing
was 5 minutes. Standard 100 mm cubes were cast from each mixture to measure the effect of RHA
on the compressive strength at the age of 7, 28, and 90 days. All specimens were kept in the molds
for 24 hours and then placed in water for curing until the day of testing. The splitting tensile strength
was measured at 28 and 90 days using 100mm diameter and 200mm high cylinders.
Table 5. Concrete Mix Proportions.
RHA Replacement (%)
Cement (kg/m
3
)
RHA (kg/m
3
)
Superplasticizer (%)
0
460
0
0.25
5
437
23
0.25
10
414
46
0.25
15
391
69
0.25
20
368
92
0.25
30
322
138
0.50
40
276
148
1.00
50
230
230
2.00
2) Chloride Ion Penetration: Chloride ion penetration was measured by the Nordtest (NT BUILD
492) method [21], which is a non-steady state migration method based on a theoretical relation
between diffusion and migration. The method enables the calculation of the apparent chloride
diffusion coefficient (D
nssm
) from an accelerated test [1]. The samples were prepared from 28 day
cured cylinder specimens sized 100mm diameter and 200mm height; these are cut with a saw to 50
mm high cylindrical slices. After the specimen was placed on the plastic support in the catholyte
reservoir (10% NaCl solution) the sleeve above the specimen with was filled with 300 ml of 0.3N
NaOH as anolyte solution (see Figure 1). A 30V electrical potential was applied and the initial current
through each specimen was recorded. Then, after adjusting the voltage depending on the value of the
initial current the test was continued for 24 to 96 hours depending on the initial current.
The principle of the test is that chloride ions are forced to migrate out of the 10% NaCl catholyte
solution subjected to a negative charge at the surface of the specimen, through the concrete into the
0.3N NaOH anolyte solution at the opposite surface of the specimen. After the test, the specimen is
axially split and a silver nitrate solution is sprayed on to one of the freshly split surfaces; the chloride
Mechanics, Materials Science & Engineering, September 2017 ISSN 2412-5954
MMSE Journal. Open Access www.mmse.xyz
penetration depth (x
d
) is measured by observation of the color change in order to calculate the apparent
non steady state diffusion migration coefficient (D
nssm
). Figure 1 shows the details of the test setup.









(1)
where D
nssm
is the non-steady-state migration coefficient (×10
-12
m
2
/s);
U is the absolute value of the applied voltage (V);
T is the average value of the initial and final temperature in the anodic solution (ºC);
L is the thickness of the specimen, usually 50 mm;
x
d
is the average value of measured chloride penetration depth (mm);
t is the testing period (h).
Fig. 1. The non-steady state migration test set-up: Anolyte (0.3M NaOH), Catholyte (10% NaCl)
[1].
Results and Discussion. The results of the compressive strength tests to determine the optimum RHA
replacement in concrete are shown in Figure 2; each data point represents the average value of three
samples. The RHA blending increases the strength at the early age (7 days) up to 15% replacement
ratio, for all RHA types. This early strength increase is unexpected as reactive silica cannot provide
significant strength contribution unless hydration is at a progressed state (e.g. [18]). The early strength
development may be attributed to the filler effect (physical) of the fine-grained RHA rather than the
pozzolanic effect (chemical).
However, the strength increase is most pronounced at the age of 28 days as a result of RHA silica
reacting with the calcium hydroxide of cement hydration. This means that in RHA blended concrete,
the Ca(OH)
2
formed during hydration of Portland cement is rapidly consumed due to the high poz-
zolanic reactivity of RHA. As time passes the rate of hydration reaction is faster than OPC and thus
producing more secondary CSH. The volumes of Ca(OH)
2
crystal are reduced and higher volume of
CSH than OPC are seen and consequently accelerates and enhances the hydration [22].
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A. Compressive Strength
Fig. 2. Compressive strength of control and RHA blended concrete.
Fig. 3. Compressive strength of RHA blended concrete from [9] [10] [13] [14].
Moreover, the high amount of amorphous RHA silica (RHA-C) consisting of irregular or angular and
spherical shaped particles [1], [23], [24] with high fineness of particles improve the particle packing
density of the blended cement, leading to a reduced volume of larger pores and a more homogenous
microstructure of the cement paste, particularly in the interfacial zone around the aggregate leading
to increase the strength. Based on the RHA properties given in Tables 1 and 2 (amorphous silica
structure and high surface area) RHA-C blended concrete shows in the highest increase of the
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
0 10 20 30 40 50
Compressive strength (MPa)
RHA Replacement (%)
RHA-A 7d
RHA-B 7d
RHA-C 7d
OPC 7d
RHA-A 28d
RHA-B 28d
RHA-C 28d
OPC 28d
RHA-A 90d
RHA-B 90d
RHA-C 90d
OPC 90d
0
10
20
30
40
50
0 10 20 30 40 50
Compressive strength
(MPa)
RHA Replacement (%)
7d [9]
7d [14]
7d[11]
28d [9]
28d[11]
28d [14]
90d [9]
90d [14]
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compressive strength with increasing replacement ratio up to 15%; the compressive strength
increased about 29% compared to the control sample. However, the strength of RHA concrete
declines with increasing replacement ratio over 15%; nevertheless, even with 50% replacement the
compressive strength of RHA-C (84% amorphous silica) concrete was still 12% higher than the
control sample. This result confirms the result obtained by Mehta [6] and Isaia et al., [8]. This
phenomenon can be explained by the amorphous siliceous nature and very high fineness that make
RHA-C a highly reactive pozzolana. On the other hand, the performance of RHA with partially
crystalline silica (RHA-A 25% crystalline; RHA-B 10% crystalline) exhibit higher compressive
strength at 50% replacement after 90 days about 6.69% and 1.77% respectively compared to OPC
concrete due to the crystalline silica particles behavior as a micro filler justifying better the density
of mixture.
Comparing the experimental results to the published literature ([8], [9], [10], [11], [13], [14]) it can
be seen from Figure 3 hat the results are very inconsistent: the compressive strength increases with
RHA content up to 30% [9], while the results from [10] and [13] show compressive strength reduction
for RHA blended concrete.
Furthermore, the value of compressive strength decreases below that of OPC concrete beyond 35%
RHA mixture [9]. Similar results were reported by Zhang and Malhotra [7], where 30% is the optimal
limit of replacement without negative impact on the strength of concrete. Moreover, Karim et al.
[25] concluded after doing a review on the literature of RHA impact on the strength of mortar and
concrete that 30% replacement ratio appears to be the optimal limit. On the other hand, the results
obtained by Isaia et al., [8] showing excellent performance of concrete blended RHA even with 50%
replacement ratio compared to the OPC concrete. This high performance of concrete blended RHA
was due to the amorphous silica structure and the finesses of RHA particle size according to Ganesan
et al. [9].
B. Splitting tensile strength
The results of the splitting tensile strength at 28 and 90 days are presented in Figure 4. From the
observation, the splitting tensile strength at long-term age is higher than the control for all RHA
replacement percentages. The increase of splitting tensile strength at 50% RHA replacement is
11.17%, 9.14% and 15.17% for RHA-A, B and C respectively. However, the results from the
literature are again inconsistent: Several authors ([26], [26], [26]) report a reduction of splitting tensile
strength with increasing RHA content for RHA contents up to 20%. This has been explained by the
increased brittleness of RHA concrete [29]. On the other hand, several authors ([29], [23]) reported
an increase of splitting tensile strength for maximum RHA replacements up to 25%.
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
0 10 20 30 40 50
Splitting tensile strength(MPa)
RHA Replacement (%)
RHA-A 28d
RHA-B 28d
RHA-C 28d
OPC 28d
RHA-A 90d
RHA-B 90d
RHA-C 90d
OPC 90d
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Fig. 4. Splitting tensile strength of control and RHA blended concrete.
C. Chloride Permeability
The results of the non-steady state migration test are illustrated in Figure 4. The results show that
using RHA drastically enhances resistance to chloride ion penetration compared to the control
concrete. Resistance to chloride ion penetration in concrete was improved from 11.55×10
-12
m
2
/s to
1.77×10
-12
m
2
/s, 2.19×10
-12
m
2
/s and 0.80×10
-12
m/s
2
for 50% replacement with RHA-A, B and C
respectively. The improved resistance for chloride penetration was also reported by several other
authors ([9], [17], [18], [31], [32]); the optimum replacement in these studies was reported to be
between 15% and 25% [9].
With increased RHA replacement up to 60%, the chloride penetration of RHA-A concrete reduced
further to 2.10×10
-12
m
2
/s, while RHA-B and C showed an increase to 1.64×10
-12
m
2
/s and 0.98×10
-
12
m
2
/s respectively. The behavior of RHA-A can be attributed to two factors; first, the high amount
of silica content (92.10% of total weight), of which about 75% are amorphous. Second, the behavior
of crystalline silica (about 25% of silica) as micro filler after all amorphous silica reacted with calcium
hydroxide of cement hydration. It can be seen that the diffusion coefficient of RHA blended concrete
specimens continuously decreases with increase in RHA content up to 50% of RHA-C and B, while
continues decreasing with RHA-A even with 60%; nevertheless, still higher than RHA-C coefficient
at 60% replacement ratio.
Fig. 5. Chloride ion diffusion of RHA concrete after 28 days.
D. Effect of Superplasticizer Ratio on Strength
Results of cubes and cylinders with superplasticizer obtained from experimental analysis shows that
by using superplasticiser in RHA concrete the compressive and tensile splitting strength of concrete
were increased. Several authors report increase of strength and durability for concrete with superplas-
ticizer compared to control samples ([33] [34] [35]). The strength increase may be as large as 30% at
7 days and 50% at 28 days when the author used superplasticizer 1.61% of cement weight [32]. The
positive effect has been attributed to improved compaction of concrete and more water being availa-
ble to lubricate the mix [38].
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
0 10 20 30 40 50 60
D
nssm
×10
-12
m
2
/s
RHA Replacement (%)
RHA-A
RHA-B
RHA-C
OPC
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Summary. The results presented in this paper indicate that up to 50 % of rice husk ash (by weight)
can be incorporated in concrete without adversely affecting on the strength and durability of the
concrete. Based on experimental results, the following conclusions can be drawn:
1. The obtained test results showed that the compressive and splitting tensile strength of concrete
have noticeably been improved. These properties are influenced by variations in reactive silica
content in the RHA (the higher the amount of silica in amorphous form, the higher the concrete
strength and resistivity value became), amount of crystalline to amorphous silica form content, grain
size of RHA particles, concrete age, Best results were achieved with the more reactive RHA (RHA-
C). The coarser, less reactive RHA-A and B produced lower strength results for the whole range of
cement replacement.
2. The increase in compressive and tensile strength of concrete with RHA containing a high amount
of crystalline silica (RHA-A and B) is better justified by the filler effect (physical) than by the
pozzolanic effect (chemical). After depletion of all amorphous silica by reacting with calcium
hydroxide [Ca(OH)
2
] to produce secondary C-S-H gel, the remaining silica, which is in crystalline
form will behaves as a filler.
3. According to the experimental results as much as 60% by weight of OPC can be replaced by all
RHA types used in the study improving the durability of concrete (chloride ion resistance); the best
results were achieved with RHA-C with a 91% reduction of chloride penetration; this can be attributed
to the high reactivity of the amorphous silica and fine grain size of RHA-C. This is a much higher
reduction than previously reported in the literature where only a 15% to 40% reduction could be
achieved ([16], [18]).
4. Overall RHA-C performed best of all three RHA types used in this study. Both compressive and
tensile strength had a maximum at 15% replacement, but were still higher than the control concrete
at 50% replacement. The reduction of chloride penetration was at a maximum at 50% replacement
with only a slight reduction at 60% replacement.
5. The many discrepancies in published literature on strength and durability of RHA blended concrete
can be attributed to the different RHA properties used by various authors. Especially the content of
active (amorphous) silica and the grain size have a large influence on its performance as pozzolanic
material.
Based on the results of the present study the future work will investigate the following points:
Investigations will be undertaken to determine the effect of increasing the RHA content (for up to
70% or more) on the properties of concrete, and investigate the effect of high dosage of
superplasticizer on the workability and compressive and splitting tensile strength.
RHA with defined properties will be produced by controlled re-incineration and grinding; this will
be used to further investigate the effect of RHA particle grain size and the content of amorphous silica
on the strength and durability of the concrete.
Experiments will be carried out using different amounts of superplasticizer to be able to distinguish
between the effect of the superplasticizer and RHA on the strength and durability of the concrete.
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