In situ interactions between Opalinus Clay and Low Alkali Concrete

Lerouge, Catherine; Gaboreau, Stéphane; Grangeon, Sylvain; Claret, Francis; Warmont, Fabienne; Jenni, Andreas; Cloet, Veerle; Mäder, Urs (2017). In situ interactions between Opalinus Clay and Low Alkali Concrete. Physics and chemistry of the earth, 99, pp. 3-21. Elsevier 10.1016/j.pce.2017.01.005

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A five-year-old interface between a Low Alkali Concrete (LAC) formulation (CEM III/B containing 66% slag and 10% nano-silica) and Opalinus Clay (OPA) from a field experiment at Mont Terri Underground Rock Laboratory in Switzerland (Jenni et al., 2014) has been studied to decipher the textural, mineralogical and chemical changes that occurred between the two reacting materials. Reactivity between LAC concrete and OPA is found to be limited to a ∼1mm thick highly porous (ca. 75% porosity) white crust developed on the concrete side. Quantitative mineralogical mapping of the white crust using an electron microprobe and infrared spectroscopy on the cement matrix provides evidence of a Mg-rich phase accounting for approximatively 25 weight % of the matrix associated with 11 weight % of calcite, calcium silicate hydrate (C-S-H) and other cement phases. EDX analyses and electron diffraction combined with transmission electron microscopy of the Mg-rich phase provide evidence for a tri-octahedral 2:1 phyllosilicate with mean composition: (Ca0.5±0.2) (Mg2.0±0.4, Fe0.2±0.1, Al0.5±03, □0.3±0.3) (Al0.9±0.2, Si3.1±0.2) O10 (OH)2, where □ represents vacancies in the octahedral site Apart from this reactive contact, textural, mineralogical and chemical modifications at the contact with the LAC concrete are limited. OPA mineralogy remains largely unmodified. X-ray micro-fluorescence and EPMA mapping of major elements on the OPA side also provides evidence for a Mg-enriched 300 to 400μm thick layer. The cation exchange capacity (CEC) values measured in the OPA in contact with the LAC concrete range between 153 and 175 meq kg−1 of dry OPA, close to the reference value of 170 ± 10 meq kg−1 of dry OPA (Pearson et al., 2003). Changing cation occupancies at the interface with LAC concrete are mainly marked by increased Ca, Mg and K, and decreased Na. Leaching tests performed on OPA with deionized water and at different solid to water ratios strongly suggest that Cl and SO4 have either conservative behaviour or are constrained by the solubility of a precipitated sulfate phase. The Cl and SO4 concentrations measured at 2 cm from the interface are close to concentrations of undisturbed OPA pore waters (SO4: 4.5 ± 1.5 mmol kg−1 of dry OPA; Cl: 7.5 ± 2.1 mmol kg−1of dry OPA), and increase towards the interface with the concrete. The SO4 to Cl ratio also increases towards the interface, suggesting that the increasing anion concentrations are not related to porosity variations but rather to a concentration gradient and sulfate phase precipitation near the interface.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Rock-Water Interaction
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Applied Rock-Water-Interaction

UniBE Contributor:

Jenni, Andreas and Mäder, Urs


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Andreas Jenni

Date Deposited:

03 Aug 2017 10:53

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2022 16:37

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Cement/clay interaction; Low pH cement; M-S-H; (Ca, Mg) smectite; Characterization; Mont Terri




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