Cellular concrete is a lightweight construction material comprising hydraulic cement, water, and preformed foam agent. It is a hard material and has a density ranging from 20 PCF to 120 PCF. Low density cellular concrete could have as density of 50 pounds per cubic foot (PCF) or less.
Technically, any cementitious slurry or cementitious material that utilizes an externally produced foam to raise the air content above 10% could be assumed to be cellular concrete, popularly known as foamed concrete, aerated concrete, air-cured lightweight concrete, autoclaved cellular concrete, foam cement or lightweight flowable fill. This concrete type, as against other available lightweight cementitious materials, uses externally generated foam to reduce the density.
Cellular concrete has proved to be economical and at the same time provides high fluidity, high strength, resistance to fire, mold resistance and increased durability. Cellular concrete, although similar to aerated autoclaved concrete (AAC), provides advantages over AAC in terms of processing and equipment costs.
The processing type for cellular concrete produces a higher quality material with low capital costs for manufacturing equipment as well. These important characteristics help cellular concrete products to demonstrate higher performance and provide economical construction vis-à-vis conventional concrete products.
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There has been an increased demand for tough and lightweight construction materials. These requirements have been driving the demand for cellular concrete in the recent times.
Besides, approach towards developing cost-effective, environment-friendly products has also been favoring the global cellular concrete demand. This is so because of the environment-friendly nature of the production process of cellular concrete.
The process involves the use of fly-ash, a waste material obtained from coal-based thermal plants at low prices vis-à-vis raw materials needed for conventional concrete that consumes large quantity of coal to make clinkers. The latter results in considerable greenhouse gas emissions as compared to the former.
Cellular concrete displays a vast range of usage and provides multiple advantages in each of the applications.
For instance, it is used on account of its higher thermal and acoustical insulation properties, compatibility to pumping processes and superior flow characteristics (fluidity) and ease of handling on account of its lightweight nature. It can also be used as an economical alternative to fill materials applied in the building & construction sector.
There have been rising number of applications such as those in roof decks, floor decks and in geo-technical applications, such as annular space filling in slip lining and void fill abandonment. Cellular concrete has also witnessed a rise in architectural and precast applications.
However, there are concerns with regard to the quality of specific raw materials used in the cellular concrete manufacturing process. For instance, foam liquid concentrates used in these processes could range from poor to very high in terms of quality, which directly affects the product quality.
Furthermore, cellular concrete experiences hydraulic shrinkage and creep vis-à-vis normal concrete on account of higher presence of the cement paste, although autoclave-based curing could help mitigate the strains caused to cellular concrete.
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