Understanding the roles of activators towards setting and hardening control of alkali-activated slag cement

Ning Li, Caijun Shi, Zuhua Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sodium silicate-activated slag often gives high early strength but sets too rapidly. Commercial retarders for Portland cement and partial replacement with other cementitious components in alkali-activated slag (AAS) system have been proven ineffective. This study investigated the approach of controlling setting by altering activator ion composition and silica polymer status. The roles of activators during the alkali-activation process were studied via pore solution chemistry analysis and microstructural analysis of hydration products. The addition of Na2CO3 does not, but NaOH does alter the polymerization of silicate ion groups in sodium silicate solution due to the increases in pH and Na2O concentration. The specific effects of Na2CO3 on the setting and hardening of AAS depend on the relative contents of NaOH and Na22SiO2 in alkaline solution. The reaction degree of AAS is dependent on activator compositions, which govern the kinetics of formation and intrinsic characteristics of the reaction products calcium aluminosilicate hydrates. The setting and strength development of sodium silicate-activated slag can be controlled by manipulating the compositions of Na2CO3-NaOH-Na22SiO2.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-45
Number of pages11
JournalComposites Part B: Engineering
Early online date26 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2019


  • alkali-activated cements
  • setting
  • compressive strength
  • hydration
  • Na2CO3


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