James C Hain.

Disintegration of Portland cement briquettes by oil, and experiments to prevent it online

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University of Wisconsin Lil)rary
Manuscript Theses



Unpublished theses submitted for the Master's and
Doctor's degrees and deposited in the University of Wis-
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DISINTRGRATIOH OP PORTLAND CFJli?NT BRI 'iUKTTKS
BY OIL MU) KXPKRDtRITTS TO PK.WENT IT

by
J-V£ES C HAIN



A Thesis SuTomitted for the Degree
of
CIVIL ENGINEER



UNIVERSITY OP WISCONSIN
1905



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398749

OCT -6 1933
pvNM WV

About two years ago, (Jan. 1903) it was accidentally
discovered in the cement testing laboratory of the CMS:
St P Railway, Mr. C P Loweth, Engineer and Superintendent
of Bridges and Buildings, that oil disintegrated Portland
cement. Briefly the circiuastances were as follows:- A two
year old neat Portland cement briquette which had been in
use in the laboratory as a paper weight was laid aside
where it was exposed to occassional drippine^ of signal
oil. In ten months t?.- briquette began to disintegrate.
Photograph No. 1 shows the effect after being exposed for
that period.

TTp to this time, (two years ago) there was con-
siderable difference of opinion in regard to the effect of
oil on concrete. In fact, there is today. Many consider
it entirely harmless, and to prore their assertions call
attention to machinery foundations in use for many years,
which, though exposed to waste oil, are perfectly sound.
On the other hand, there are many who believe the contrary
to be true, and tell about concrete disintegrating where
oil appeared to be the sole cause. T].e laboratory test
above referred to proves clearly that oil must have a
powerful effect on concrete mortar, to disintegrate a two
year old briquette. It therefore seemed of great value
to make further investigations, because concrete is used

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extensively in places where waste oil cannot "be avoided,
such as engine and machine foundations, turn talDle and
round house pits, draw bridge piers and abutments, floors
in oil storage houses, etc. The result of the discovery
referred to indicates that concrete when used where oil
can reach it may disintegrate in time, and thus result
seriously.

Consequently, an examination was made of a great
many concrete structures on which more or less oil was
found. There were a limited number of instances where
the concrete was possibly affected by oil, but in these
cases it was very old, and the character of the original
material and the workmanship was questionable* On the
other hand, none which was built in late years, and known
to be of good quality, was affected to any perceptible
degree if at all. One case which particularly attracted
our attention, was the concrete floor of an oil house in
which lubricating and lighting oils had been stored for
six years without any apparent effect. The penetration of
the oil was slight, perhaps not to exceed one sixteenth
of an inch; moreover, the saturated portion seemed to be
as sound as the rest. There were other instances where
the oil had penetrated deeper, as for example, in the pits
of a round house, the oil had gone in from one quarter to
one half of an inch, while in other respects, the concrete

seemed perfectly normal. These pits however, had been in

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use only about a year when investigated. It will thus be
seen that v/hile the investigation seemed favorable for
the structures examined, our observations could not be
taken as conclusive for all concrete structures .

We then decided upon laboratory experiments in
which the test pieces consisted of Portland cement briquettes
made of neat cement, 1:3 of s€tnd and 1:3 of limestone
screenings that were allowed to age four days in the lab-
oratory air, and were then subjected to ap!;lications of
signal oil. (See "First Series" "Tablel") At first, small
quantities of oil (enough to saturate) were applied daily
and later the applications were less frequent, depending
upon the amount the briquette absorbed. Cracks developed
in the sand and limestone briquettes first, in which they
appeared at the age of two and one half months, (See Photo-
graph No. 2) while the neat briquettes showed similar
results in five months. A sand briquette of the same
series is shown in photograph No. 3, at the age of six
months when larger cracks had developed. Photograph No. 4
is the same briquette after crushing in the hand, thus
showing the disintegration to be complete. All briquettes
eventually disintegrated.

After obtaining these results, a still more ex-
tensive series of tests was started. The •first series" was
confined to one oil (signal) and a single cement, while
the "Second Series", (See Table I) included a character-
istic oil or fat from each of the five different grduplglc



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which are most cornnion, and one each of. the three varieties*

of cement, classed according to the raw material from which

they are manufactured. The oils and fats used were as

follows:-

Vegetable Oil
Class - Animal ?at Animal Oil Serai- drying Drying
Kind - Foct. of Lard Whale Castor Bo. Linseed

Mineral
Crude Petroleum

In addition to these, signal oil, (which is a
mixture of animal fat and mineral oil) was also used be-
cause it served for a comparison with the previous tests.
In choosing the cement, a well known brand of Portlajid
was selected from those manufactured from stone and clay,
another from marl and clay, and the third from slag and
stone.

Neat and 1:3 sand briquettes from all these varie-
ties of cement were then made, and treated each with the
six different kinds of oils and fats. A total of about
800 briquettes were required to cover the entire series of
tests, (including those made for comparison but not treated
with oil). All briquettes were left in the laboratory air
seven days before starting the oil treatment which was
similar to that used in the former test. The oil appli-
cations were continued until the testa ended, or nine
months after the^'' were started. Tensile tests were ob-
tained of the oil treated briquettes and also (for com-
parison) of two similar sets without oil, one of which was
kept in water, and the other in laboratory Mip^dby^^^^^LC



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quettes were broken at 28 daySi 3, 6, and 9 months, except
when disintegration prevented.

In regard to the results; I will not take the space
to reproduce the tensile tests, however, all other informa-
tion regarding them is shown in Series II of Table I. The
greatest effect was caused by animal fat or extract of
lard oil which disintegrated most of the neat and sand
briquettes in from one half to two and one half months.
HoT'/ever, it failed to destroy some, even at the end of
nine months, when the tests were discontinued. As a rule
the neat briquettes were affected first, which was contrary
to what was noticed in the first series of tests. Photo-
graphs 5, 6 and 7 show the results of the lard oil treat-
ment on the nine months old briquettes of all three varie-
ties of cement. It will be seen that the stone clay class
wao disintegrated the least and the slag-stone the most.
The above order of disintegration however, was not followed
in all cases. In this connection I also wish to say that
the raw materials out of which a cement is made did not
seem to govern the effect of the oil on the cement; instead
the peculiar characteristics of each cement apparently
regulated that. Next in effect was signal oil, a mixture
of animal fat and mineral oil which acted only slightly
different from the extract of lard. Following this was
the whale and castor oils which caused considerably less
disintegration than either of the two before mentioned.
Only a small percentage of the briquettes treated wi'^H^thffse



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oils were affected in outward appearance up to the end of
the test. The two remaining oils, petroleum and "boiled lin-
seed, did not disintegrate any of the "bri-^uettes up to nine
months. Petroleum however, penetrated, affected the strength
soraev/hat, and possibly v/ould have eventually destroyed it,

while boiled linseed formed a coating without penetrating.
Of the five classes, boiled linseed was the only one that
apparently did not effect the strength of the briquettes;
no doubt due to oxidation which prevented it from soaking in.
Had it not dried before penetrating, it possibly would have
disintegrated the briquette to the same extent as castor, the
other vegetable oil used.

We have nov/ seon the effect of oil on the weaker
briquettes, I say v/eaker, because it will be remembered
that the first series of tests which consisted of only a
few, v/ere treated with oil after four days old, and the sec-
ond lon^^er series after seven days. Also that these ^vere not
regularly cured briquettes, but exposed to the laboratory air
instead of water after making, which method was used to allow
the briquettes to dry so they would more readily absorb the
oil. Therefore, their mze -'-hen the oil was first applied,
and the method of curing naturally made these briquettes more
susceptible to oil than if they y/ei-e older and cured in 'vater,
which was intended in order to make the effect of the oil
treatment more pronounced. To supplement the tests on these
weaker briquettes, experiments were made with older ones which
were cured according to the regular laboratory practice. Some

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of these tests were as follows: a neat, a 1:1 a 1:2 and a 1:3
sand "briquette, all of which, were two years old, were dried
at the stove for twenty days, and then treated with signal
oil. Though it has "been practically two years since the oil
was first applied, with one exception they sh nv no signs of
disintegration, and this was only noticeable since this paper
was started. In addition to this, the above briquettes were
made of silica cement (instead of the regular Portland)
consisting of equal portions of sand and Portland C-^nent
(ground together to a fineness that passed through a No. 200
sieve) which therefore were weaVer than the standard Portland
cement "briquettes of the same mixture. The one that failed
was the weakest of the four, "being a mixture of one of silica
cement to three of sand. Another test consisted of a neat
and a 1:3 sand briquette, v/hich were taken from the vat at
the age of one year, and treated with signal oil, both of
which appear to be perfectly sound though soaked in oil for
practically one year. Still another specimen was a 28 day
neat briquette which was dried by exposing to the laboratory'-
air for three months after which signal oil was applied. H
the age of eight months the briquette was disintegrated. Kight
one year old briquettes were also included in this series,
which are still sound. However, they w^re inmersed in oil
only nine months, and moreover were otherv/ise treated to
prevent the action of the oil. (These I will speak of later).
In connection with this series of older briquettes, we are



experimenting with a piece of concrete from the oil hous

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floor "before mentioned, which, thouch in use for six years,
was not perceptibly affected. This piece of concrete has now
"been immersed in oil for ten months, and is still sound. It
will thus be seen that onl^^ two briquettes out of the long
time series of fifteen, failed, both of which were the weakest
in the lot. One of these was 28 days old when taken from the
vat, which (if an average briquette) would have broken at
from three-quarters to seven-eights of its ultimate strength.

The other while set for tv/o years in water, was a compara-
tively lean mixture, being made of one part of silica cement
and three parts sand which would have broken at from three-
qu urters to seven-eight 3 of the strength of a 1:3 regular
Portland. The specimen of concrete and the rest of the
briquettes show no signs of failure. However, the oil has
penetrated throughout, and also possibly weakened them.
Thus far, our invest iga' ion may be s^iramarized
briefly as follows: At the outset we failed to find a speci-
men of concrete that we felt was positively disintegrated by
oil, tho^igh we not infrequently heard of it, as for example,
the pedestal under a cream separator, which case seemed possi-
ble becau^ie it is an instance of almost continued application
of animal fat, apijarently the worst condition that could
exist. On the other hand, plenty of concrete was found
that oil had penetrated but not disintegrated. J^^rther, our
tests of comparatively new briquettes, which were weakened by

exposure to air, showed that with one exception, they v/ere

or affected by
disintegrated. by all classes of oils and fats^gjtjzedbfj'



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and fats when arranged according to their effect (as far
as .our experiments indicate) are as follows: Animal Pat,
Animal Oil, Vegetalole Oil and Mineral Oil. The exception to
the above was the drying vegetable oil, which, unlike the
semi-drying, oxidized before penetrating. It was apparently
the only one -vhich had no effect. In these tests animal fat
had a much greater effect than the oils* Only a small per-
centage of the briqu'^ttea were disintegrated at the end of the

4

tests (or nine months after the first application) by the
oils "/hich contained no fat. (I wish to add here however,
that our tests are not extensive enough to say whether the
above arrangement of the fats and oils according to their
effect on briquettes, would hold true if other oils had been
experimented with because their chemical compositions vary so
much). And la^t, out of the fifteen old briquettes which ^vere
seasoned according to the laboraton'' practice, only two have
been outwardly affected, though treated fro^i nine months to
two years, and these t -o were the weakest, as before pointed
out. The briquettes which remained unaffected were cured fro: -
one to two years in water before treating. Though only tv/o
of the fifteen have been destroyed by oil, all have been pene-
trated, and also possibly maj^ fail in time.

With all this in view, we are still uncertain as to the
possible final effect of fats and oils on concrete structures.

On the following points however, we -^e reasonably
sure; Pirst, most oils penetrate concrete mortar, which makes
them objectionable* Second, concrete is i^oreDiJiil^ith^O^CWlc



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disinteerated when saturated with oils and fats if not thor-
oughly set. Third, a good quality of co^icrete is less sus-

cepti>}le to the effect of oil than a poor, such as a porous,
lean, frosted, poorly mixed or improperly seasoned concrete.
Fourth, ordinary concrete work is rarely sulDJected to contin-
ued large doses of oils but more often is only occassionally
spattered. "Disintegration under the latte^ conditions, seems
remote, especially in the case of first class, well seasoned
concrete. (The concrete floor above mentioned is an excellent
exa^nple. The oil spattered on it perhaps was oxidized or ab-
sorbed by the dust, and instead of penetrating, helped to
protect it). Last, even though subjected to the equivalent
of continued saturation, the disinte.j;ration would be long
drapvn out if the concrete were properly made and well set.

Our conclusions may eventually be altered, though
it must necessarily be a long time before definite results
will be obtained from the tests under wa;r. in the meantime,
more experiments will be started, especially on the poor
quality of concretes, and -also tensile tests on well seasoned
briquettes.

Table I, shows the effect of oils on Portland cement
bri(iuettes which I have Just finished dlscns^slng. A study
of it will perhaps reveal more than has been said. It does
not include the tensile tests nor the untreated briciuettes
which v/ere made for cornparison.

I also wish to call your attention to the more complete
classification of Fats and Oils shown elsewherei'^'Jfn ^hich o



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the sut-divisions are made from a physical and chemical stand-
point. In the latter respect however, the classification is
not as good as the former >jecause the chemical compositions
of oils differ largely even of the same sub-division » While
only the more common primary fats and oils are given, it can
"be seen that a wide range of experiments is desirable to
cover the entire field, which is all the more necessary
because of the chemical differences before spoken of •

^'^e have now seen the effect of oil; next we are natur-
ally interested to know what will prevent it. Tinder unfavor-
able conditions, it seems very desirable to use a wash for
oil spattered concrete that will prevent oils from penetrat-
ing. :v:oreover, it is possible that concrete seasoned accord-
ing to ordinary practice will not resist oil as well as the
water cured briquettes. Jvlost of all to be protected are oil-
spattered reinforced stnjictures, where the strength depends
entirely upon the q\iality of the concrete. It would then be
a great relief if some simple wash could be applied to pro-
tect it from oils.

'"hile experimenting with the effect of oils, we made
several attempts to discover something that would -mswer the
purpose. Our attention was first attracted to Linseed Oil
which you re^nernber, did not penetrate, but formed a coating
on the outside of the briquette that apparent 1;/ protected it.
How'fver, after two months application of signal oil, the lin-
seed oil was penetrated, and 1 ;ter the briquette was disinte-

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grated. Other oils were slower in their aotion on linseed
oil.

Another exi^eriynent was -ijade with alternate washes
of a 5^ solution of almoin and a 7^ solution of castile soap
(knovm as Sylvester's process of making concrete impeVvious
to water"), which combination forms an insoluble precipitate
that fills the voids. Five washes of each were applied al-
ternately hut this coating failed to prevent the oil from
attacking the mortar.

These same solutions were also tried in a different
^vay, by making the "briquettes with them instead of water.
One solution was first thoroughly mixed with the cement and
the other solution added Just before moulding into a briquette
''hen treated with oil, these showed up inferior to the other
method. (Moreover the briquettes broke about 20/^ below the
untreated, which weakening is contrarj'- to what has been
claimed for it). Photo.i:raph No. 8 shows the briquettes
which were made according to this process, and "J*ter fourteen
days old, treated for six months, with extract of lard oil.
Photocraph No. 9 shows briquettes of the same series which
were made in the regular waj/-. Photographs 10 and 11 are
similar except that signal oil was used in place of extract
of lard oil.

^-^e next experimented with paraffine, because there
are few things that attack it, including all acids and al-
kalies. I believe I wra right in also saying that the obelisk

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in Central Park, New York; KXXH was treated with it to pre-
vent weathering. Part of the oriquettes were coated with it
on the outside hy dipping them in hot paraffine, and other
hri'i'iettes ^ve^^e h^^ated and held in hot : araf f ine until they
"becane i-eaetrated an eighth of an inch. Neither of these
experiments apparently prolonged the time hefore disintegra-
tion hy oils. The results were a great dissapointment .

V

Sodium silicate, or what is known as water glass,
was the last tried. It is a fire-proof oil or varnish, sonte

times used to prevent stone from weathering. This coating
dissolved in 20 days and one of the "bri luettes disintegrated
although the oil was applied for only about -^ne and one half
months.

Tahle II covers the tests on the hriqu-'ttes whio>i
vrere Ir'-atf^d to preserve them from the effects of oil. A
study of it will perhaps reveal more than has been pointed
out in the paper.

The difficulty experienced in finding a cheap wash
that will absolutely protect concrete from oil is apparent.
Somethinr is needed that will penetrate into the concrete
to allow for wear, and most of all be inex^jensive . This
paper ought to bring the matter to the attenti'-n of engineers
and concrete users, and start further investigations along
theise sa?ne lines, or at least bring out suggestions that can
be tried in established laboratories. Let us hope that it
will soon be unnecessary to use brick facing and stone caps

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for concr-^te structures exposed to oil, or in the absence of
these feel uneasjr a'oout the final character of the concrete.
Jloreover, we do not want to limit the use of reinforced con-


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Online LibraryJames C HainDisintegration of Portland cement briquettes by oil, and experiments to prevent it → online text (page 1 of 2)