Laser scanning confocal microscopy for in situ monitoring of alkali–silica reaction


Professor K. E. Kurtis. Fax: +1 404 894 2278; e-mail:


Alkali–silica reaction (ASR) occurs in concrete between reactive siliceous components in the aggregate and the strongly alkaline pore solution, resulting in the formation of a potentially expansive gel product. Lithium additives have been shown to reduce expansion associated with ASR, but the mechanism(s) by which lithium reduces expansion have not been understood. Therefore, development of an in situ method to observe reactions associated with ASR is highly desirable, as it will allow for non-destructive observation of the reaction product formation and damage evolution over time, as the reaction progresses. A technique to image into mortar through glass aggregate by laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM), producing three-dimensional representations of the sample was developed. This LSCM technique was utilized to monitor the progress of alkali–silica reaction in mortar samples prepared with alkali-reactive glass aggregate both in the presence and in the absence of lithium additives: LiNO3, LiCl or LiOH. The method proved to be effective in qualitatively monitoring crack formation and growth and product formation, within cracks and at the paste/aggregate interface. In particular, dendritic products were observed at the paste/aggregate interface only in those samples containing lithium, suggesting that these products may play a role in ASR mitigation.