Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.C.E.

Degree Granting Department

Civil Engineering

Major Professor

Alberto A. Sagüés

Keywords

Electrochemical impedance, Buried metal, Galvanized steel, Polarization resistance, Durability

Abstract

Mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) walls are a more advanced form of a retaining wall, often larger and able to hold back more backfill. This is achieved by reinforcing strips or meshes (most often galvanized steel) placed into the soil, which are held in place by friction. The strips mechanically stabilize the earth while undergoing tension. The wall is covered with concrete medallions that connect to the reinforcements. The medallions have only a secondary structural role in holding up the wall but provide cover that protects the soil from washing away. MSE walls are structures expected to have very long service lives (e.g. 100 years). Confirmation is needed that such durability can be achieved, especially to show that the progression of corrosion of the reinforcement is slow enough.

Ten MSE walls around Florida were instrumented (electrical connections were made through the concrete covers to the buried elements) between 1996- 1998 and used to survey corrosion rates of galvanized strip or mesh soil reinforcements. Initial estimates of corrosion-related durability were obtained at that time, indicating a good prognosis for long term durability. The objective of the research in this thesis was to obtain additional indications of the durability of reinforcements in MSE walls in Florida so as to perform a more reliable projection of future performance. Corrosion behavior was measured at the same locations as the initial survey by electrochemical nondestructive tests and by destructive tests. The nondestructive testing consisted of half-cell potentials, polarization resistance measurements, and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. Corrosion rates reported in this thesis are based upon polarization resistance measurements.

The destructive testing consisted of soil extraction and hardware extraction. Hardware extraction enabled independent verification of estimates of electrochemical corrosion rate. Analysis of extracted soil verified that soil composition was within construction specifications. The data from the current survey were also used to further improve prediction of corrosion. The present series of evaluations confirm that the structures are performing as desired based upon the updated model projection of future corrosion.

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