The spalling of concrete in fires

  • Raymond J. Connolly

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The occurrence of spalling is a major factor in determining the fire resistance of concrete constructions. The apparently random occurrence of spalling has limited the development and application of fire resistance modelling for concrete structures. This Thesis describes an experimental investigation into the spalling of concrete on exposure to elevated temperatures. It has been shown that spalling may be categorised into four distinct types, aggregate spalling, corner spalling, surface spalling and explosive spalling. Aggregate spalling has been found to be a form of shear failure of aggregates local to the heated surface. The susceptibility of any particular concrete to aggregate spalling can be quantified from parameters which include the coefficients of thermal expansion of both the aggregate and the surrounding mortar, the size and thermal diffusivity of the aggregate and the rate of heating. Corner spalling, which is particularly significant for the fire resistance of concrete columns, is a result of concrete losing its tensile strength at elevated temperatures. Surface spalling is the result of excessive pore pressures within heated concrete. An empirical model has been developed to allow quantification of the pore pressures and a material failure model proposed. The dominant parameters are rate of heating, pore saturation and concrete permeability. Surface spalling may be alleviated by limiting pore pressure development and a number of methods to this end have been evaluated. Explosive spalling involves the catastrophic failure of a concrete element and may be caused by either of two distinct mechanisms. In the first instance, excessive pore pressures can cause explosive spalling, although the effect is limited principally to unloaded or relatively small specimens. A second cause of explosive spalling is where the superimposition of thermally induced stresses on applied load stresses exceed the concrete's strength.
Date of Award1995
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn A. Purkiss (Supervisor)


  • spalling
  • concrete
  • fires

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