Electrochemical characterization of early corrosion in prestressed concrete exposed to salt water


Five large-scale concrete specimens reinforced with bonded seven-wire steel strands and representative of portions of bridge piles were exposed to salt water wet/dry cycles for 1 year, simulating tidal action. Corrosion of multi-wire steel strands was facilitated by minimizing the concrete cover. Half-cell potential and polarization resistance measurements were routinely performed to assess early corrosion. Supporting visual evidence of pitting and crevice corrosion was collected from strands removed from decommissioned specimens. It is shown that corrosion can be assessed based on polarization resistance thresholds. Tafel slopes were numerically estimated for passive and corroding strands from ±20 mV polarization curves, and used to gain a preliminary insight into the evolution of the Stern–Geary parameter and the associated corrosion intensity. These results suggest that the Stern–Geary parameter increases upon depassivation of the strands, different from deformed bars in reinforced concrete.

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This material is based in part upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Technology Innovation Program, under Cooperative Agreement Number 70NANB9H9007. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NIST. The support of the University of South Carolina (USC) through the second author’s research incentive funds is gratefully acknowledged. Special thanks are extended to Mr. Nima Zohhadi (Ph.D. student), who provided assistance in conducting the SEM analysis, and the personnel and undergraduate research assistants of the USC Structures and Materials Laboratory.

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Correspondence to Fabio Matta.

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Vélez, W., Matta, F. & Ziehl, P. Electrochemical characterization of early corrosion in prestressed concrete exposed to salt water. Mater Struct 49, 507–520 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1617/s11527-014-0514-1

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  • Corrosion
  • Polarization resistance
  • Prestressed concrete
  • Salt water