Alkali-activated cement sensors for sodium chloride monitoring

Biondi, L. and Perry, M. and McAlorum, J. and Vlachakis, C. and Hamilton, A. and Lo, G. (2021) Alkali-activated cement sensors for sodium chloride monitoring. IEEE Sensors Journal, 21 (19). pp. 21197-21204. ISSN 1530-437X (

[thumbnail of Biondi-etal-Sensors-2021-Alkali-activated-cement-sensors-for-sodium-chloride]
Text. Filename: Biondi_etal_Sensors_2021_Alkali_activated_cement_sensors_for_sodium_chloride.pdf
Accepted Author Manuscript

Download (5MB)| Preview


Chloride-induced corrosion of reinforced concrete costs the global economy billions of dollars every year. Despite concerted research effort, the non-invasive, continuous monitoring of sodium chloride in concrete structures is still an unsolved problem. Here, we outline a first-time demonstration of a sodium chloride sensor based on alkali-activated cements: a class of cementitious, electrolytically conductive materials which are typically used for concrete construction and repair. In this work, internal sodium chloride concentrations ranging from 0–22 wt% were measured independently of moisture contents via shifts in electrical impedance. The typical sodium chloride measurement precision was 0.85 wt%. Non-linearity of the sensor response due to signal saturation began at sodium chloride concentrations >5 wt%. We use experimental measures of ion dynamics to link this saturation to the deleterious effect of high concentrations on ion mobility. This study demonstrates sensor feasibility, and provides new experimental evidence to further our understanding of ionic conductivity mechanisms in these materials. The work will allow for the development of self-sensing repair and construction materials for locating and quantifying sodium chloride levels within concrete structures — a valuable technology for supporting concrete health monitoring and maintenance.