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The purpose of this book is to familiarize civil engineering and construction technology students with two of the most important materials of construction, Portland cement (PC) and Portland cement concrete (PCC). People frequently make the error of using these terms interchangeably. It is important to keep in mind that PC is a powder, while PCC is initially a plastic material and for the remainder of its life, a solid.

A valid analogy is to compare PC to flour and PCC to bread. The book aims to assist students to gain an understanding of PC and PCC through the physical handling and testing of these materials in the laboratory environment. While the book was primarily written for use at the college level, it may also serve as a practical guide for the graduate engineer and laboratory technician. The body of this book is divided into four sections. Section 1 explains how concrete batches are designed, mixed, and measured for various consistencies, which is explained in a special chapter titled “Mix Design Procedures.” Section 2 details the tests of the primary component materials of concrete other than water— namely Portland cement, aggregates, and mortar.

Section 3 includes some of the fundamental testing procedures in conformity with the standards of the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM). Section 4 includes the various appendices, followed by an index of additional data sheets. There probably will never be enough laboratory time to complete all of the test procedures, even in a 15-week university semester. The testing procedures included herein are intended to accurately reflect the specific ASTM designation, sometimes with modifications dictated by the inherent time constraints of an academic laboratory.

In certain cases, therefore, such as in securing the specific gravities and absorption of aggregates, modifications were introduced to fit the usual 3-hour laboratory module. Where the particular ASTM method permits alternate procedures, only the one more applicable to the teaching situation was chosen. The unique property of all products utilizing hydraulic cements is the interval required to obtain test specimens and its time sensitivity. For this reason, considerable time must elapse between specimen preparation and testing.

This complicates the scheduling process when planning a course in Portland cement concrete and makes this laboratory unique. Sample course outlines for both a ten-week academic quarter and a fifteen-week semester are included in Appendix F. It is recommended that the five additional weeks in the semester be utilized for additional testing on aggregates, cement, and mortar. The same number of periods is shown to be devoted to PCC testing in both schedules. The United States has been for many years, and remains in transition from the U.S. Standard System of Measurements to the SI (Système International d’Unités, commonly referred to as the metric system).

Only two small nonindustrialized nations, Liberia in Africa and Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) in southwestern Asia, still have not converted to the SI system. Since both systems of measurements are still currently being used, in this book the SI system was chosen to be the primary measurement system shown, with the equivalent U.S. Standard in parentheses as a “soft” conversion between the two systems. The values of the two measurements are, therefore, not identical.