Geopolymer-based moisture sensors for reinforced concrete health monitoring

Biondi, Lorena and Perry, Marcus and McAlorum, Jack and Vlachakis, Christos and Hamilton, Andrea (2020) Geopolymer-based moisture sensors for reinforced concrete health monitoring. Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, 309. 127775. ISSN 0925-4005

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    Abstract

    Moisture plays a critical role in reinforced concrete corrosion, underpinning structural degradation which costs the global economy a staggering $350bn per year (0.5% GDP). Both moisture sensors and repair materials that limit water ingress are required, but monitoring and maintenance are often viewed as separate challenges. This paper outlines a first-time demonstration of moisture sensors based on low calcium fly ash geopolymers — a class of cementitious, electrolytically conductive repair materials. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and equivalent circuit models are used to understand and optimize the electrical response of geopolymer sensors to water content and temperature. Moisture and temperature precisions of 0.1wt% and 0.1°C are demonstrated respectively, and sensor drifts over 20 minute periods were found to be within 1–3%. Sensor responses were also shown to be repeatable to within 3% between wetting and thermal cycles. Results from spectrometry and chromatography analyses link this repeatability to the minimal ion leaching from the sensors. The study demonstrates the feasibility of moisture sensing using geopolymers, and furthers our current understanding of the role of moisture in the ionic conductivity of alkali-activated materials. This work is anticipated to be the first stage in developing 2D, distributed sensor-repairs for concrete structures, and other chemical sensors that support concrete structural health monitoring and prognostics.