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Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-06-133
Date: March 2007

The Use of Lithium to Prevent Or Mitigate Alkali-Silica Reaction in Concrete Pavements and Structures

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Progress is being made in efforts to combat alkali-silica reaction in portland cement concrete structures—both new and existing. This facts book provides a brief overview of laboratory and field research performed that focuses on the use of lithium compounds as either an admixture in new concrete or as a treatment of existing structures.

This document is intended to provide practitioners with the necessary information and guidance to test, specify, and use lithium compounds in new concrete construction, as well as in repair and service life extension applications. This report will be of interest to engineers, contractors, and others involved in the design and specification of new concrete, as well as those involved in mitigation of the damaging effects of alkali-silica reaction in existing concrete structures.

Gary L. Henderson, P.E.
Director, Office of Infrastructure
Research and Development


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for its contents or use thereof. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation.

The U.S.Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trade or manufacturers' names appear herein only because they are considered essential to the objective of this manual.

Quality Assurance Statement

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. FHWA periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and processes to ensure continuous quality improvement.

Technical Report Documentation Page

1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No.

3. Recipient's Catalog No.

4. Title and Subtitle

The Use of Lithium To Prevent or Mitigate Alkali-Silica Reaction in Concrete Pavements and Structures

5. Report Date

March 2007

6. Performing Organization Code

7. Author(s)

Michael D.A. Thomas, Benoit Fournier, Kevin J. Folliard, Jason H. Ideker, and Yadhira Resendez

8. Performing Organization Report No.

9. Performing Organization Name and Address

The Transtec Group, Inc.
6111 Balcones Drive
Austin, TX 78731

10. Work Unit No.

11. Contract or Grant No.


12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

Office of Infrastructure R&D
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, HRDI-11
6300 Georgetown Pike, Room F-209
McLean, VA 22101

13. Type of Report and Period Covered

Final Report

14. Sponsoring Agency Code

15. Supplementary Notes

Contracting Officer's Technical Representative: Fred Faridazar, HRDI-12

16. Abstract

Alkali-silica reaction (ASR) was first identified as a form of concrete deterioration in the late 1930s (Stanton 1940). Approximately 10 years later, it was discovered that lithium compounds can be used to control expansion due to ASR. There has recently been increased interest in using lithium technologies to both control ASR in new concrete and to retard the reaction in existing ASR-affected structures.

This facts book provides information on lithium, its origin and properties, and on its applications. The mechanism of alkali-silica reaction is discussed together with methods of testing to identify potentially alkali-silica reactive aggregates. Traditional methods for minimizing the risk of damaging ASR are presented; these include the avoidance of reactive aggregates, controlling the levels of alkali in concrete and using supplementary cementing materials such as fly ash, slag and silica fume. The final two sections of the facts book discuss the use of lithium, first as an admixture for new concrete construction and second as a treatment for existing concrete structures affected by ASR.

17. Key Words

alkali-silica reaction, lithium, concrete durability, mitigation, fresh concrete, hardened concrete, case studies, laboratory testing, field investigation, existing structures

18. Distribution Statement

No Restrictions. This document is available to the public through the National Technical Information Service; Springfield, VA 22161

19. Security Classif. (of this report)


20. Security Classif. (of this page)


21. No. of Pages


22. Price

Form DOT F 1700.7 (8-72 Reproduction of completed page authorized.

SI (Modern Metric) Conversion Factors


Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Lithium—Properties and Production

Chapter 3. Alkali-Aggregate Reaction

3.1 Terminology

3.2 Mechanisms of ASR

3.3 Symptoms of ASR

3.4 Methods of Evaluating Potential Reactivity of Aggregates

3.4.1 Field Performance

3.4.2 ASR Testing in the Laboratory

3.5 Measures To Prevent ASR

3.6 Treating Existing ASR-Affected Pavements and Structures

Chapter 4. Using Lithium to Prevent ASR in New Concrete21

4.1 Laboratory Studies

4.2 Field Applications

4.3 Laboratory Testing To Determine the Amount of Lithium Required

4.4 Effect of Lithium on the Properties of Concrete

Chapter 5. Use of Lithium to Treat Existing ASR-Affected Structures

5.1 Laboratory Studies

5.2 Field Applications

5.2.1 Topical Treatment with Lithium

5.2.2 Electrochemical Lithium Impregnation

5.2.3 Vacuum Impregnation With Lithium

5.3 Recommendations for Treating ASR-Affected Structures with Lithium

Chapter 6. Summary




List of Figures

Figure 1. Periodic table showing the position of lithium

Figure 2. Photograph of lithium metal

Figure 3. Photograph of the lithium- bearing mineral spodumene

Figure 4. Aerial view of lithium-bearing brines in Argentina (Salar del Hombre Muerto)

Figure 5. Aerial view of lithium-bearing brines in Chile (Salar de Atacama)

Figure 6. Sequence of alkali-silica reaction (ASR) in concrete

Figure 7. Schematic showing difference in crystal structure of quartz (left) and opal (right)

Figure 8. Three essential requirements for deleterious ASR

Figure 9. Typical symptoms of ASR

Figure 10. Concrete prism test-prisms stored over water in sealed containers

Figure 11. Concrete prism test-length change measurements (ASTM C1293)

Figure 12. Accelerated mortar bar test (ASTM C1260): (a) view from the top of four rectangular concrete samples, under water in a blue rectangular container; (b) measuring a concrete sample for length change using a digital comparator

Figure 13. Effect of the alkali content of concrete on the expansion of prisms

Figure 14. Effect of SCM on the expansion of concrete (using concrete prism test)

Figure 15. Barrier wall in Quebec-the section of the wall to the right of the picture has been treated with a silane sealer

Figure 16. Relative expansion of concrete prisms (ASTM C1293) containing lithium compounds and reactive siltstone aggregate (Thomas et al., 2000)

Figure 17. Photographs of 12-year-old pavement sections reactive aggregate from Shakespeare pit in Albuquerque, NM (photos taken in 2004)

Figure 18. Photographs of 12-year-old pavement sections reactive aggregate from Placitas pit in Albuquerque, NM

Figure 19. Expansion of concrete prisms after treatment with lithium at 10 weeks (expansion = 0.061 percent) and 16 weeks (expansion = 0.107 percent) (Thomas and Stokes, 2004)

Figure 20. Spraying 30 percent LiNO3 solution with a tanker truck on a concrete pavement near Mountain Home, ID

Figure 21. Spraying 30-percent LiNO3 solution with handheld spray applicator on barrier wall near Leominster, MA

Figure 22. Lithium concentration profiles for concrete pavement after six treatments (at approximately 6-month intervals) of 0.24 L/m2 (6 gal/1000 ft2) (Stokes et al., 2002)

Figure 23. Electrochemical lithium impregnation

Figure 24. Electrochemical lithium treatment process. (a) irrigation tubes, wood splices, and metal strips are placed on the column. The metal strips are attached to titanium mesh that runs inside holes drilled into the sides of the column. (b) A cellulose layer is applied to the side of the column, and (c) plastic sheeting is placed on all sides of the column. The gutters under the sheeting collect excess lithium for reuse

Figure 25. Typical vacuum impregnation setup

Figure 26. Precipitation of LiNO3 from solution (a) on barrier wall and (b) on pavement

Figure 27. Monitoring techniques-(a) crack mapping of a barrier wall and (b) measuring length changes on concrete pavement with a DEMEC gauge


List of Tables

Table 1. Principal lithium minerals and their sources (after Lumley, 1997).

Table 2. List of lithium compounds and applications for lithium.

Table 3. Terminology for alkali-aggregate reactions (CSA A23.1-04).

Table 4. Typical chemical analysis for portland cement.

Table 5. Table of alkali-silica reactive minerals and possible rock types in which they may be found.

Table 6. ASTM test methods related to alkali-aggregate reaction.

Table 7. Calculation for alkali content of portland cement concrete.15

Table 8. Range of alkali limits (CSA A23.1-27A).16

Table 9. Example showing calculation of [Li]/[Na + K] molar ratio.

Table 10. Proportioning mixtures with lithium for the concrete prism test.26

Table 11. Penetration of lithium after electrochemical treatment of bridge deck.30

Table 12. General guidelines for topical lithium treatment.33

Table 13. Suggestions for monitoring lithium-treated structures.33

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations


AAR alkali-aggregate reaction
ACR alkali-carbonate reaction
ASR alkali-silica reaction
ASTM American Society for Testing and Materials
CSA Canadian Standards Association
DEMEC demountable mechanical
FHWA Federal Highway Administration
ppm parts per million
SASW spectral analysis of surface waves
SCM supplementary cementitious material
w/cm water-cementitious material ratio


Chemical Notations

Calcium silicate hydrate
Calcium carbonate
Calcium nitrate
Calcium hydroxide
Hydroxyl ion
Potassium oxide
Potassium chloride
Molar ratio of lithium ions to the sum of sodium and potassium ions
Lithium chloride
Lithium fluoride
Lithium nitrate
Lithium hydroxide
Lithium hydroxide monohydrate
Lithium carbonate
Lithium silicate
Lithium sulfate
Sodium oxide
Total sodium oxide equivalent
Sodium chloride
Sodium hydroxide
Silicon dioxide