Many of the useful properties of Portland cement concrete stem from chemical reactions between cement and water, which cause the slow transformation of the initial fluid suspension into a rigid solid. Because this transformation does not begin immediately, concrete may be processed—mixed, transported, consolidated into a mold, and given a smooth surface — before it becomes rigid (i.e., sets), which typically occurs a few hours after initial mixing. As a result of the need to maintain a workable suspension during processing, the flow properties of cementitious systems have seen considerable attention. However, control of workability remains poorly understood, in part because the relationships between flow and process-ability are not clear. Recent advances have been made in understanding the flow of nonreactive suspensions, and the objective of this article is to explore how these advances provide new insights concerning the behavior of cementitious materials.
There are two motivations driving investigations of cement rheology. The first is that understanding flow properties is the key to better processing. The second is that paste rheology can be used to gain a fundamental understanding of the initial cement microstructure and of the variables influencing early cement hydration reactions.