The structural permeability of concrete at cryogenic temperatures

  • P.B. Bamforth

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The thesis describes a programme of research designed to identify concretes for application at cryogenic temperature, in particular for storage of Liquefield Natural Gas which is maintained at a temperature of -165oC. The programme was undertaken in two stages. Stage 1 involved screening tests on seventeen concrete mixes to investigate the effects of strength grade (and water/cement ratio), air entrainment, aggregate type and cement type. Four mixes were selected on the basis of low temperature strength, residual strength after thermal cycling and permeability at ambient temperature. In Stage 2 the selected mixes were subjected to a comprehensive range of tests to measure those properties which determine the leak tightness of a concrete tank at temperatures down to -165oC. These included gas permeability; tensile strength, strain capacity, thermal expansion coefficient and elastic modulus, which in combination provide a measure of resistance to cracking; and bond to reinforcement, which is one of the determining factors regarding crack size and spacing. The results demonstrated that the properties of concrete were generally enhanced at cryogenic temperature, with reduced permeability, reduced crack proneness and, by virtue of increased bond to reinforcement, better control of cracking should it occur. Of the concretes tested, a lightweight mix containing sintered PFA aggregate exhibited the best performance at ambient and cryogenic temperature, having appreciably lower permeability and higher crack resistance than normal weight concretes of the same strength grade. The lightweight mix was most sensitive to thermal cycling, but there was limited evidence that this behaviour would not be significant if the concrete was prestressed. Relationships between various properties have been identified, the most significant being the reduction in gas permeability with increasing strain capacity. The structural implications of the changing properties of the concrete have also been considered.
Date of Award1987
Original languageEnglish


  • structural permeability
  • concrete
  • cryogenic temperatures

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