This research study investigates the effect of fly ash and silica fume on the cement paste hydration. A total of 350 samples of different percentages of each additive were tested and compared with the controlled cement paste without additives. Testing method includes water curing and vacuum curing conditions and involves the use of Forney Universal Testing Machine and MTS Landmark Servohydraulic Testing System (MTS) for compressive strength; Fourier Transfer Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) monitored the hydration with spectra; and Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) generated images for regional analysis. Compressive strength testing demonstrated that silica fume replacement had the highest overall strength under water curing. Replacement of fly ash exhibited the highest overall strength under vacuum curing. The hydration process was monitored with the use of FTIR and SEM. Signatures of CSH which produce most of the concretes’ strength, has been determined and examined from 3 to 56 days. FTIR and SEM testing showed an increase in the change of CSH area with age. SEM testing revealed the formation of pores, CSH, and CH in images at all ages. The area of CSH grows most in early ages and diminishes over time. It is clear that the method of curing makes a difference in hydration. Results indicated that the area at which the possible formation of CSH was determined from each sample, has increased with respect to time; signifying the increase in strength over the course of testing days.
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