Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Konstantin Sobolev

Committee Members

Konstantin Sobolev, Habib Tabatabai, Bruce Ramme


Admixture Optimization, Aggregate Optimization, Concrete Mix Design, Concrete Optimization, Packing Degree Experiment and Simluation, Supplementary Cementitious Materials


Portland cement concrete is most used commodity in the world after water. Major part of civil and transportation infrastructure including bridges, roadway pavements, dams, and buildings is made of concrete. In addition to this, concrete durability is often of major concerns. In 2013 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimated that an annual investment of $170 billion on roads and $20.5 billion for bridges is needed on an annual basis to substantially improve the condition of infrastructure. Same article reports that one-third of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition [1]. However, portland cement production is recognized with approximately one cubic meter of carbon dioxide emission. Indeed, the proper and systematic design of concrete mixtures for highway applications is essential as concrete pavements represent up to 60% of interstate highway systems with heavier traffic loads. Combined principles of material science and engineering can provide adequate methods and tools to facilitate the concrete design and improve the existing specifications. In the same manner, the durability must be addressed in the design and enhancement of long-term performance. Concrete used for highway pavement applications has low cement content and can be placed at low slump. However, further reduction of cement content (e.g., versus current specifications of Wisconsin Department of Transportation to 315-338 kg/m3 (530-570 lb/yd3) for mainstream concrete pavements and 335 kg/m3 (565 lb/yd3) for bridge substructure and superstructures) requires delicate design of the mixture to maintain the expected workability, overall performance, and long-term durability in the field. The design includes, but not limited to optimization of aggregates, supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs), chemical and air-entraining admixtures. This research investigated various theoretical and experimental methods of aggregate optimization applicable for the reduction of cement content. Conducted research enabled further reduction of cement contents to 250 kg/m3 (420 lb/yd3) as required for the design of sustainable concrete pavements. This research demonstrated that aggregate packing can be used in multiple ways as a tool to optimize the aggregates assemblies and achieve the optimal particle size distribution of aggregate blends. The SCMs, and air-entraining admixtures were selected to comply with existing WisDOT performance requirements and chemical admixtures were selected using the separate optimization study excluded from this thesis. The performance of different concrete mixtures was evaluated for fresh properties, strength development, and compressive and flexural strength ranging from 1 to 360 days. The methods and tools discussed in this research are applicable, but not limited to concrete pavement applications.

The current concrete proportioning standards such as ACI 211 or current WisDOT roadway standard specifications (Part 5: Structures, Section 501: Concrete) for concrete have limited or no recommendations, methods or guidelines on aggregate optimization, the use of ternary aggregate blends (e.g., such as those used in asphalt industry), the optimization of SCMs (e.g., class F and C fly ash, slag, metakaolin, silica fume), modern superplasticizers (such as polycarboxylate ether, PCE) and air-entraining admixtures. This research has demonstrated that the optimization of concrete mixture proportions can be achieved by the use and proper selection of optimal aggregate blends and result in 12% to 35% reduction of cement content and also more than 50% enhancement of performance. To prove the proposed concrete proportioning method the following steps were performed:

• The experimental aggregate packing was investigated using northern and southern source of aggregates from Wisconsin;

• The theoretical aggregate packing models were utilized and results were compared with experiments;

• Multiple aggregate optimization methods (e.g., optimal grading, coarseness chart) were studied and compared to aggregate packing results and performance of experimented concrete mixtures;

• Optimal aggregate blends were selected and used for concrete mixtures;

• The optimal dosage of admixtures were selected for three types of plasticizing and superplasticizing admixtures based on a separately conducted study;

• The SCM dosages were selected based on current WisDOT specifications;

• The optimal air-entraining admixture dosage was investigated based on performance of preliminary concrete mixtures;

• Finally, optimal concrete mixtures were tested for fresh properties, compressive strength development, modulus of rupture, at early ages (1day) and ultimate ages (360 days).

• Durability performance indicators for optimal concrete mixtures were also tested for resistance of concrete to rapid chloride permeability (RCP) at 30 days and 90 days and resistance to rapid freezing and thawing at 56 days.