The importance of using the right type and quality of aggregates cannot be overemphasized. The fine and coarse aggregates generally occupy 60% to 75% of the concrete volume (70% to 85% by mass) and strongly influence the concrete’s freshly mixed and hardened properties, mixture proportions, and economy. Fine aggregates (Fig. 1) generally consist of natural sand or crushed stone with most particles smaller than 5 mm (0.2 in.).
Overview - Aggregates for Concrete
Fig. 1. Closeup of fine aggregate (sand). 
Image courtesy: University of Memphis

Coarse aggregates (Fig. 2) consist of one or a combination of gravels or crushed stone with particles predominantly larger than 5 mm (0.2 in.) and generally between 9.5 mm and 37.5 mm (3⁄8 in. and 1 1⁄2 in.). Some natural aggregate deposits, called pit-run gravel, consist of gravel and sand that can be readily used in concrete after minimal processing. Natural gravel and sand are usually dug or dredged from a pit, river, lake, or seabed.
Overview - Aggregates for Concrete
Fig. 2. Coarse aggregate. Rounded gravel (left) and
crushed stone (right).
Image courtesy: University of Memphis
Crushed stone is produced by crushing quarry rock, boulders, cobbles, or large-size gravel. Crushed air-cooled blast-furnace slag is also used as fine or coarse aggregate. The aggregates are usually washed and graded at the pit or plant. Some variation in the type, quality, cleanliness, grading, moisture content, and other properties is expected. Close to half of the coarse aggregates used in Portland cement concrete in North America are gravels; most of the remainder are crushed stones.
Naturally occurring concrete aggregates are a mixture of rocks and minerals (see Table 1). A mineral is a naturally occurring solid substance with an orderly internal structure and a chemical composition that ranges within narrow limits. Rocks, which are classified as igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic, depending on origin, are generally composed of several minerals. For example, granite
contains quartz, feldspar, mica, and a few other minerals; most limestones consist of calcite, dolomite, and minor amounts of quartz, feldspar, and clay. Weathering and erosion of rocks produce particles of stone, gravel, sand, silt, and clay.
Overview - Aggregates for Concrete
Table 1: Rock and Mineral Constituents in

Recycled concrete, or crushed waste concrete, is a feasible source of aggregates and an economic reality, especially where good aggregates are scarce. Conventional stone crushing equipment can be used, and new equipment has been developed to reduce noise and dust
Aggregates must conform to certain standards for optimum engineering use: they must be clean, hard, strong, durable particles free of absorbed chemicals, coatings of clay, and other fine materials in amounts that could affect hydration and bond of the cement paste. Aggregate particles that are friable or capable of being split are undesirable. Aggregates containing any appreciable amounts of shale or other shaly rocks, soft and porous materials, should be avoided; certain types of chert should be especially avoided since they have low resistance to weathering and can cause surface defects such as pop outs.

Identification of the constituents of an aggregate cannot alone provide a basis for predicting the behavior of aggregates in service. Visual inspection will often disclose weaknesses in coarse aggregates. Service records are invaluable in evaluating aggregates. In the absence of a performance record, the aggregates should be tested before they are used in concrete. The most commonly used aggregates—sand, gravel, crushed stone, and air-cooled blast-furnace slag—produce freshly mixed normal-weight concrete with a density (unit weight) of 2200 to 2400 kg/m3 (140 to 150 lb/ft3). 
Aggregates of expanded shale, clay, slate, and slag (Fig. 3) are used to produce structural lightweight concrete with a freshly mixed density ranging from about 1350 to 1850 kg/m3 (90 to 120lb/ft3).
Fig. 3. Lightweight aggregate. Expanded clay (left) and expanded shale (right).
Fig. 3. Lightweight aggregate. Expanded clay (left) and
expanded shale (right).

Image courtesy: University of Memphis
Other lightweight materials such as pumice, scoria, perlite, vermiculite, and diatomite are used to produce insulating lightweight concretes ranging in density from about 250 to 1450 kg/m3 (15 to 90 lb/ft3). Heavyweight materials such as barite, limonite, magnetite, ilmenite, hematite, iron, and steel punchings or shot are used to produce heavyweight concrete and radiation-shielding concrete (ASTM C 637 and C 638). Only normal-weightaggregates are discussed in this article
Normal-weight aggregates should meet the requirements of ASTM C 33 or AASHTO M 6/M 80. These specifications limit the permissible amounts of deleterious substances and provide requirements for aggregate characteristics. Compliance is determined by using one or more of the several standard tests cited in the following sections and tables. However, the fact that aggregates
satisfy ASTM C 33 or AASHTO M 6/M 80 requirements does not necessarily assure defect-free concrete.
For adequate consolidation of concrete, the desirable amount of air, water, cement, and fine aggregate (that is, the mortar fraction) should be about 50% to 65% by absolute volume (45% to 60% by mass). Rounded aggregate, such as gravel, requires slightly lower values, while crushed aggregate requires slightly higher values. Fine aggregate content is usually 35% to 45% by mass or volume of the total aggregate content.

By Kieu Hai Dang


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