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Leaching Lithium

Project ID: 1938
Principal Investigator: John Robertson
Research Topic: Condition Assessment
Funded Fiscal Years: 2014 and 2015
Keywords: lithium, leaching lithium, alkali silica reaction, presoaked lightweight aggregates

Research Question

Alkali silica reaction (ASR) still has the potential to severely damage the Bureau of Reclamation's concrete structures. ASR is a form of concrete deterioration caused by a reaction between alkalies in the cement used in concrete and certain types of aggregates. The reaction was discovered in the 1930s, and methods were developed to prevent the reaction from damaging concrete structures. Those methods were principally to limit the amount of alakalies in the cement used in the concrete and to use non-reactivce aggregates.
However, these methods are no longer as effective as they were once considered. This is due to a couple of factors - the lack of economically available high quality aggregate sources and the increase in alkali content in cement due to energy use issues. It seems ASR will always be around some areas of the country, and will likely start to be more of a problem in the foreseeable future. Fortunately, a solution has been found that has the potential to reduce or eliminate ASR in new concrete structures. Lithium is that solution. In fact, we had two projects within
the last year where reactive aggregates were proposed for use in the concrete mixture that used lithium to mitigate the reaction.
When added to concrete lithium chemically mitigates the formation of ASR, thus maintaining durability and increasing service life. One concern with using lithium to mitigate ASR is leaching of the lithium by water out of
the concrete. If the lithium were to leach out of the concrete, over time the concrete would be at risk of suffering from ASR, then expanding and developing cracks. Knowing the long term leaching characteristics would help us determine if lithium is a viable solution for ASR mitigation for concrete exposed to water.

Need and Benefit

Funding for these tasks would help in the decision process of whether to allow the use of lithium in a water containing structure. This knowledge is required in order for us to design our structures that are located in areas
with ASR problems.
There are substantial questions about the effectiveness of the use of lithium in concrete or concrete repair applications to mitigate ASR.

Contributing Partners


Research Products

A technical report with the finding of these results will be issued. If successful:
Recommendations will be made for the best solution for future projects requiring lithium as an ASR mitigation technique. Recommendations for adding a section to our concrete guide specifications. A paper publishing the research conducted to be submitted to a peer reviewed professional journal.
Presentation to ACI and ASTM with regard to the correct committee or subcommittee in hopes of publishing in the standards or reports.

This information was last updated on May 22, 2015
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