Creep in reactive colloidal gels: A nanomechanical study of cement hydrates

Michael Haist*, Thibaut Divoux*, Konrad J. Krakowiak, Jørgen Skibsted, Roland J.M. Pellenq, Harald S. Müller, Franz Josef Ulm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


From soft polymeric gels to hardened cement paste, amorphous solids under constant load exhibit a pronounced time-dependent deformation called creep. The microscopic mechanism of such a phenomenon is poorly understood in amorphous materials and constitutes an even greater challenge in densely packed and chemically reactive granular systems. Both features are prominently present in hydrating cement pastes composed of calcium silicate hydrate (C-S-H) nanoparticles, whose packing density increases as a function of time, while cement hydration is taking place. Performing nanoindentation tests and porosity measurements on a large collection of samples at various stages of hydration, we show that the creep response of hydrating cement paste is mainly controlled by the interparticle distance and results from slippage between (C-S-H) nanoparticles. Our findings provide a unique insight into the microscopic mechanism underpinning the creep response in aging granular materials, thus paving the way for the design of concrete with improved creep resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number043127
Journal Physical Review Research
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


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