What Is Prestressed Concrete: Advantages and Disadvantages of Prestressed Concrete

What Is Prestressed Concrete?

Prestressed Concrete is simply concrete that is stressed before concrete is poured in from work with the help of a jack and tension embedded in it.

In the case of prestressed concrete, high-strength prestressed steel bars produce tension in a concrete member before actual loads are applied which will be balanced by the tensile stresses imposed on the member during the service period or after commissioning.

As we generally know concrete is the mixture of three main ingredients which are cement (a fine mixture of clay, limestone, and a small amount of gypsum ground up to the desired degree of fineness), sand (only river sand or obtained through pit) and aggregate (Made form blasting and grinding from rocky soil) and when we add water (free from impurities) in this mixture it creates concrete which we use for various civil work.

Prestressed Concrete
Prestressed Concrete

One of the main important characteristics of concrete or drawback of concrete is, that it is weak in tension and strong in compression because the material used in concrete is rigid and possesses low tensile/flexural strength.

That’s why in order to resist the tensile load or stress which structure has to resist after actual loading.

Engineers come up with a solution to introducing High-strength steel bars into concrete members. Using this method they have overcome the problem of tensile stress which has allowed the engineer to achieve various possibilities such as reducing the size of members increasing span length etc.

But when we consider structure such as bridges, where the span is so long and the load is also high, we can’t simply adopt a normal reinforced concrete structure as the size of the member become larger, crack develop and it’s becomes uneconomical.

Under such a circumstance we have to adopt different kinds of methods and one of the most commonly adopted methods is the prestressing of concrete.

Read More: Self-Healing Concrete- A New Innovation In Civil Engineering

Prestressed Concrete Structures

Conventional concrete is embedded with high tensile strength steel bars which have great compressive strength to form an ideal structural material that is good in both compression and tensile.

In the case of prestressed concrete, high-strength prestressed steel bars produce tension in a concrete member before actual loads are applied which will be balanced by the tensile stresses imposed on the member during the service period or after commissioning.

As you can see in Fig. 1 which is a normal R.C.C beam where no prestressing is done beam will deflect under loading and the crack will develop.

prestressed concrete
Principle of Prestressed Concrete
Principle of Prestressed Concrete
Principle of Prestressed Concrete
  • Where in fig. 3 to 6 you can see that if we apply pre-stress force before actual loading, we will see a positive deflection caused by applied compression force but as the actual load is applied to the beam our beam will become straight or flat.
  • Some of the benefits of prestressed concrete over conventional R.C.C is that we can construct members having less crack, less shrinkage, and temperature effects.
  • As a result, the ingression of detrimental agents is prevented which helps in avoiding reinforcement corrosion.
  • It is also becoming a tool to go beyond the design limitation of concrete members placed on span and load and permits the building of roofs, floors, bridges, and walls with longer unsupported spans.
  • This allows architects and engineers to design and build lighter and reduce its C/S area without losing strength but the construction process in prestressed concrete requires extensive monitoring and complicated devices and equipment at all stages.

Read More: What is Curing of Concrete and Different Methods of Curing

Tendons In Prestressed Concrete

Tendons Used in Prestressed Concrete
Prestress Tendons

Steel Wires – wire is a single unit made of steel.

Strands – Group of wire not more than 7 wounded to form a prestressing strand.

Tendon – A number of strands or wires are packaged together to form a prestressing tendon.

Cable – When a number of tendons are grouped together and form a single wire then it is called a Cable.

Based upon the concrete-steel interface it can be classified into two-part:

Unbounded tendon – This tendon is one that is not bonded or in which no concrete grouting is done after prestressing.

Bonded tendon – This tendon is bounded by injecting concrete grout.

Types of Prestressed Concrete

1. Pre-tensioning

Pre-tensioning of Concrete
Pre-tensioning of Concrete

In the pre-tensioning process, the steel tendon is stretched before the concrete is poured into the formwork.

Then High-strength steel tendons are placed between two abutments and stretched as per the required deflection or strength.

After that Concrete is poured into molds and around the tendons and allowed to cure. Tendons are kept stretched until the desired concrete strength is reached after curing.

As the steel reacts to regain its original length, the tensile stresses are translated into compressive stress in the concrete.

The most popular prestressed concrete elements are roof slabs, piles, poles, bridge girders, wall panels, and railroad ties.

Read More: How Long Should Concrete Cure Before Removing Forms

2. Post-tensioning

Post-Tensioning Method

In the post-tensioning process tendons are stretched after the concrete hardens. First, Concrete is cast around, but not in contact with unstretched tendons. In many situations, a duct is formed in the concrete unit using thin-walled steel forms.

As the concrete hardened to the required strength, the steel tendons are then inserted and stretched against the ends of the unit and anchored off externally, placing the concrete into compression.

Post-tensioned concrete is used for cast-in-place concrete and for bridges, large girders, floor slabs, shells, roofs, and pavements.

Principles of Prestressed Concrete

In concrete, a large prestressing force is applied by tendons embedded into it to develop high bearing stresses at the ends by the anchoring devices. These anchoring devices are generally designed for high-strength concrete work.

Too high tensile stresses are likely to develop in concrete members and that cannot be satisfactorily resisted by low-strength concrete work.

Stress transfer to concrete is done by and between concrete and tendons, the concrete should have a high strength concrete. Shrinkage cracks will occur during the safety of stresses from tendon to concrete.

High-strength concrete has a high modulus of elasticity and therefore the elastic and creep strain are very small resulting in a smaller loss of pre-stress in all steel reinforcement.

Read More: Concrete Crack Repair – Top 5 Best Methods Of Crack Repair

Advantages and Disadvantages of Prestressed Concrete

Advantages of Prestressed Concrete

  • We can achieve the overall economy as by adopting prestressing we can reduce the of the er for higher load smaller C/S can be achieved.
  • A large span can be achieved without increasing the member size for the same loading condition.
  • Other advantages, such as excellent fire resistance, low maintenance costs, elegance, high corrosion resistance, adaptability, etc.
  • By adopting prestressed concrete we can achieve a structure that will have less crack or crack-free structure.
  • Because of better material being used and nullifying the effect of dead loads, smaller deflections are caused.

Disadvantages of Prestressed Concrete

  • The cost of high-strength materials being used is higher than the normal RCC.
  • The initial cost is incurred due to the prestressing equipment and its installation.
  • Excessive cost for prestressing is also there.
  • Prestressing is uneconomical for short spans and light loads.

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