Microstructure and transport properties of metakaolin-based geopolymers subjected to accelerated leaching

Thi Nhan Nguyen, Quoc Tri Phung, Diederik Jacques, Jan Elsen, Yiannis Pontikes

Research outputpeer-review


Towards the development of net-zero carbon concrete and the wider application of geopolymers, understanding the durability of geopolymers has become essential. However, knowledge on the evolution of microstructure and transport properties of the materials under aggressive conditions due to their interaction with external chemicals is limited. Therefore, this study investigated the leaching behaviors of metakaolin-based geopolymers with high water-to-binder (w/b) ratios under a 6 M NH4NO3 attack, focusing on their microstructure and transport properties. Microstructural insights were assessed through N2-adsorption, Mercury intrusion porosimetry, and water porosity analyses. After 28 days of leaching, total porosity slightly decreased, but pore size distribution (PSD) shifted towards larger pore sizes. The materials close to the exposed surface exhibited a relatively higher porosity and larger PSD than the deeper parts. The potential formation of Al(OH)3 and silica layers as a result of dealumination, confirmed by mass gain and SEM/EDS, contributed to the pore structural evolution. These alterations led to slight reductions in water permeability and CH4 diffusion coefficients but mostly increased the He diffusion coefficients of the geopolymers after 28-day leaching. These findings underscored the inherent microstructural characteristics of geopolymers (e.g., porosity, pore size distribution, and tortuosity) and the size of diffusing species as key factors shaping the transport properties. Notably, the permeability and diffusivity of both leached and intact geopolymers exhibited exponential correlations with the accessible porosity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number136225
Number of pages14
JournalConstruction and Building Materials
StatePublished - 3 May 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • General Materials Science
  • Civil and Structural Engineering

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