Long-Term Performance of Polymeric Materials in Civil Infrastructure

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Virginia Tech


Polymeric materials are popular in civil infrastructure due to their durability, strength, and resistance to corrosion and environmental degradation. However, the long-term performance of such materials in civil infrastructure is still being researched and investigated. This thesis will focus on the long-term performance of two civil infrastructure applications: 1) high-density polyethylene (HDPE) above-ground storage tanks (AST) and 2) silicone and self-healing polymeric concrete sealants. HDPE is a strong and durable plastic material that is commonly used to store a wide range of liquids ASTs. Currently, there are no established protocols for carrying out non-destructive testing (NDT) and assessment of HDPE ASTs for regular inspections, so this study investigated the viability of using infrared thermography (IRT) and ultrasonic testing (UT) for routine inspection. The study discovered that environmental parameters, such as temperature, wind, and humidity, can affect IRT accuracy, and that a proper heating-cooling cycle can aid in defect detection. Concrete joints in pavement systems are often susceptible to deterioration. They are engineered cracks that enable concrete slabs to expand and contract in response to temperature. They serve the dual purpose of preventing water infiltration and improving ride quality, while extending the pavement's service life. Bridge joints, in particular, are susceptible to water and liquid penetration, which can result in extensive damage over time. By applying sealants to these connections, concrete structures can be protected from such damage, thereby extending their service life. Consequently, a better comprehension of sealant performance and additional research are required to develop effective solutions to address these issues and ensure the safety and longevity of concrete structures prone to cracking. In this study, samples of the two commercial silicone joint sealants were sandwiched between Portland cement mortar specimens and tested using a specially designed fixture to imitate the fatigue performance of the joint under simulated field conditions. The results of the study indicated that the fatigue life of the two silicone sealants were different, with Sealant 2 showed better performance than Sealant 1. Both sealants exhibited adhesive failure initiating debonding along the weak interface of cement mortar cube and joint sealant. The results of commercial sealants are then compared with self-healing polysulfide sealants. This indicates that the performance of sealants can vary, and additional research may be required to develop effective solutions to address these issues.



Polymers, Polymeric materials, HDPE tanks, Ultrasonic test, Infrared Thermography, Pavement sealants, Fatigue testing