CFRP Plates for Strengthening Concrete Structures Technical Data – Tensile Modulus

A review of the current available technical data sheets for  Carboplate from Mapei, CarboDur from Sika and weber.tec force from weber, show that there are a variety of different ways that technical information are presented and in general terms highlights how care needs to be taken when checking equivalent performance of CFRP Plate Bonding Products for use in flexural strengthening reinforced concrete structures.


CFRP Plates - Flexural Modulus Comparision
CFRP Plates – Flexural Modulus Comparision

Or Similar Approved Material Specifications – CFRP Strengthening Plates

Mechanical properties of FRP materials used for composite strengthening are likely to vary between products manufactured in different facilities.  To technically assess similar products to confirm approval for use a specifier must obtainactual properties from the plate manufacturer.

Concrete Society Report TR55 defines that ‘Characteristic rather than mean values should be used for design purposes’ when it comes to material properties.  The document defines characteristic property as the mean value less 2xStandard deviation, based on a minimum sample size of 8.

Due to production methods, the mean values can vary from batch to batch,even from the same manufacturer, so the characteristic property is a dynamic figure, depending on the variability of the fibre properties used in production and the volume of continuous fibres in a cross section capable of contibuting to the property of that sample. A knowledgable supplier is unlikely to place a characteristic property on a datasheet, due to the dynamic nature of the calculation of that property, and instead is likely to state a minimum.

With the above in mind the specifier, when assessing equivalence of technically similar looking materials, should check with the manufacturers for the latest figures for a product, to obtain up to date characteristic properties. The method of testing, number of and dates of sample tests should be provided to confirm these calculations.

The normally available characteristic properties from manufacturers are tensile strength, modulus of elasticity and elongation at break.

Martin Richardson – Structural Strengthening Materials Advice

Martin’s experience extents to the following specialist areas of strengthening using composite materials;

Flexural Strengthening using CFRP Plates

Near Surface Mounted Reinforcement (NSM)

Strengthening Cast Iron Using Ultra High Modulus (UHM) Carbon Fibre Plates

Shear Strengthening Using CFRP L Shaped Links

Structural Adhesives

Materials advice can be provided to both designers and contractors who have a structure that needs strengthening.

Structural Strengthening Materials Advice
Structural Strengthening Materials Advice

Reading Bridge to be strengthened using CFRP Composites

The project to strengthen Reading Bridge has been secured by Volker Laser, it involves the use of foam concrete to infill some of the approach spans either side of the river, composite CFRP plate bonding to the under side, Near Surface Mounted Reinforcement to the top surface, concrete repair and bridge deck waterproofing.

Reading Bridge before repair and strengthening works starts.
Reading Bridge before repair and strengthening works starts.

Innovations in Structural Strengthening – Shear Strengthening with CFRP Shear Links

Strengthening reinforced concrete structures for shear has traditionally been difficult. Early schemes consisted of bonding bolting steel plates to the outside of beams. The development of the use of composite materials for shear strengthening has been researched since 1997. The use of fabric wrapping systems has provided a solution to strengthening columns where it can be applied to all surfaces of the column. The development of a system of preformed L shaped composite links for use on down stand beams has been carried out by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Material Testing and Research – EMPA. This system is the Sika CarboShear L Link. It consists of a 40mm wide, 1.2mm thick L shaped plate made of carbon fibre.

Providing sufficient composite material to resist the shear force is relatively simple. The technical difficulty is associated with obtaining the required anchorage to the ends of the composite. Initial research was required to quantify the exact capacity of different types of anchorage. At the bottom of the beam the anchorage is provided by the bend of the link under the beam. At the top of the beam the anchorage is achieved by bonding the link into the bottom of the slab. The capacity of the anchorage bonded into the slab can reach the tensile capacity of the Sika CarboShear L link at a bond depth of 120mm. The bend anchorage can only achieve approximately 60% of the capacity of the link, and hence is the limiting factor in any strengthening scheme. The conclusions of these initial tests provided information to allow the design concept to be developed.

Full scale validation testing was then carried out on T section beams at EMPA to confirm the design concept.

The beams used for the validation testing were specifically designed for high shear stresses. Four beams were statically loaded with different shear reinforcement, consisting of combinations of both internal steel links and external bonded Sika CarboShear L Links. Additional beams were used to investigate the effect of preload on subsequent strengthening and fatigue.

The testing concluded that externally bonded shear links could,

Increase shear load capacity of reinforced concrete (ULS), and can also be used to reduce shear defections (SLS).

Preload before strengthening has no effect on the performance of the strengthened beam at ULS.

The composite materials used for shear strengthening can readily bear the applied fatigue stresses.

The first trial project using Sika CarboShear L links in the UK was carried in on the A38 Liskard Bypass in Cornwall. The bridge, which is owned by the Highways Agency, consisted of a heavily skewed reinforced concrete slab. The slab had been propped since an assessment has showed that the deck edge zones had inadequate shear strength to resist the combination of torsional and flexural shear. The links were bonded to the edge of the slab and were anchored into the soffit of the parapet stringcourse at the top and lapped under the slab at the bottom. On completion of the strengthening the propping could be removed.

Development of Structural Strengthening – Pultruded Carbon Fibre Plates (CFRP)

The development and use of alternative materials has been a constant process almost since the first use of steel. The installation problems associated with the weight of the steel plates and the potential for corrosion to reduce the durability of the system led to composite materials being considered. In the early 90’s much of the research was carried out at EMPA in Switzerland. In the UK a Dti Link project called ROBUST was established to investigate the use of composite materials for strengthening structures. In 2000 the Concrete Society launched Technical Report 55 ‘Design Guidance for strengthening concrete structures using fibre composite materials’.

The first UK strengthening scheme using composite materials was completed in 1996 at Kings Collage Hospital in London. The addition of a new floor to a building changed the loading requirements of the existing roof to new floor loadings. 1.3Km of Sika CarboDur plates were installed to the soffit of the longitudinal ribs under the slab.

Preparation of the concrete surface for either steel or composite plate bonding is identical. The composite plate is delivered to site in a roll with a diameter of approximately 1.5m. The lightweight nature of the composite material means a roll containing 250m can be easily lifted and moved by a single operative. The roll is cut on site to give the required plate lengths.

The plates are applied to the concrete surface using a similar adhesive to the one used for steel plate bonding. The initial grab of the adhesive is enough to hold the lightweight plate in place during the full cure period of the adhesive, eliminating the requirement for temporary works.

The composite plates are 1.2-1.4mm thick. This means that any residual longitudinal forces in the end of the plate have a much smaller eccentricity to the concrete surface compared to steel plates. In turn this means that peeling forces are lower which generally removes the requirement for anti peel bolts.

As composite materials do not corrode, corrosion protection systems are not required. A decorative coating can be applied to help conceal the strengthening.

Development of Structural Strengthening – Steel Plate Bonding

Steel plate bonding has been used in both buildings and civil structures in the UK since 1975 using first generation epoxy adheives. In 1994 the Highways Agency published BA 30/94 ‘Strengthening of Concrete Highway Structures Using Externally Bonded Plates’. This provided information on application, design and specification of the technique. The application of steel plates is still the best solution to some strengthening problems that occur today.

Steel plate bonding provided the basis for the establishment of strengthening using externally bonded reinforcement. The process involves the bonding of a mild steel plate with a minimum thickness of 4mm (for handling purposes) to a prepared concrete surface.

The steel plates are fabricated off site to the required dimensions and specification, including holes for anti-peel bolts.

To prevent any corrosion of the steel plate a primer system needs to be applied to the prepared steel surface during fabrication. This primer also provides the critical function of transferring forces from the structure to the steel plate and is hence a crucial part of the system.

Holes for anti-peel bolts also need to be inserted in the steel plate during fabrication. These bolts are required to provide additional resistance to peel forces applied to the bond line due to any residual force in the end of the plate. The bolts have to be positioned carefully to avoid damage to the existing reinforcement in the concrete surface.

Temporary works are required to support the heavy steel plates while the 2-part epoxy adhesive is curing. The curing period is dependant on ambient conditions but is likely to be a minimum of 3 days.

A fillet of adhesive is generally placed around the edge of the plate, this provides additional protection to the bond line but also allows the application of the final corrosion protection system to the steel plates to be lapped out onto the concrete surface. The corrosion protection system is likely to provide a life to first maintenance of 8 years and to major maintenance of 16 years in an exposed environment. However, the first project carried out in 1975 has only recently come to the end of its service life over 35 years after its first installation.  Whilst the limited exposure conditons that these plates were exposed to may have extended the life span, current understanding of the performance of corrosion primers and adhesives could have possibily extended the life span.

Interestingly the steel plates have been replaced with a Carbon Fibre (CFRP) plate bonding solution.

Introduction to structural strengthening in the UK

The technique of bonding external reinforcement to structures was first used in the UK in 1975 on the M5 near Birmingham to strengthen the Quinton Interchange.

The method of strengthening using externally bonded reinforcement, structural strengthening, can be introduced by providing the answers to some simple questions.

  • What is Structural Strengthening?
  • Why do we need in?
  • What can be achieved by using the technique?
  • Where can we use it?

Structural strengthening involves the bonding of additional reinforcement to the external faces of a structural member. This additional reinforcement can incorporate steel plates, composite plates or composite wrapping systems. The method is attractive because it provides a cost effective solution to increasing load carrying capacity, especially when compared to demolition and rebuilding.

One of the main reasons for the use of the method in the UK is due to the change of use of a structure giving an increased load-carrying requirement. Other reasons such as, inadequate design, poor quality construction, structural damage, fire damage, seismic loading, reinforcement corrosion (If the cause is treated) and loss of prestress force are not uncommon.

Strengthening can improve the load carrying capacity of structures by;

  • Increasing flexural strength,
  • Shear strength,
  • impact resistance,
  • punching shear resistance,
  • redistribute loads around new openings.

Externally bonded reinforcement gives the opportunity to strengthen without having a significant visual impact on the structure. The installation process is fast and can minimise disruption to the function of the structure including the services attached to it.

Structures made from reinforced concrete, steel, cast iron, masonry and timber have all been strengthened to date using a form of the technique. Beams and slabs have been strengthened on both the top and bottom surface for flexural strength. Columns and beams have been strengthened on there side faces for shear. Slabs have been strengthened around columns to increase punching shear resistance. Various other types of structural elements have been strengthened for many different reasons.

What are the practical benefits of strengthening using carbon fibre plates?

Thanks to the light weight and low profile materials, carbon fibre plates have the practical benefits of;

  • Reducing the visual impact of strengthening.
  • Acceleration of project times.
  • Resolving difficult access issues.
  • Minimising the disruption to existing services.
  • resolving difficult detailing problems.

What can be achieved by strengthening structures using CFRP plate bonding?

Structural strengthening using carbon fibre plates bonded to reinforced concrete can;

  • Increased flexural strength
  • Redistribute loads around openings
  • Improve shear/punching shear resistance
  • Increase impact resistance
  • Increase load carrying capacity of structure