Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering (Engineering)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

ANTONIO NANNI - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

RONALD ZOLLO - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

BRIAN METROVICH - Committee Member

Fourth Committee Member

FABIO MATTA - Committee Member

Fifth Committee Member

NESTORE GALATI - Committee Member


The need to satisfy aerospace industry's demand not met by traditional materials motivated researchers and scientists to look for new solutions. The answer was found in developing new material systems by combining together two or more constituents. Composites, also known as fiber reinforced polymers (FRP) consisting of a reinforcing phase (fibers) embedded into a matrix (polymer), offered several advantages with respect to conventional materials. High specific modulus and strength together with other beneficial properties, corrosion resistance and transparency to electrical and magnetic fields above all, made FRP also suitable for use as construction materials in structural engineering. In the early years of the twenty-first century, the publication by the American Concrete Institute (ACI) of design guidelines for the use of FRP as internal reinforcement and for external strengthening of concrete members accelerated their implementation for structural engineering applications. To date, FRP have gained full acceptance as advanced materials for construction and their use is poised to become as routine as the use of conventional structural materials such as masonry, wood, steel, and concrete. However, new concrete columns internally reinforced with FRP bars and FRP confinement for existing prismatic reinforced concrete (RC) columns have currently important unsolved issues, some of which are addressed in this dissertation defense. The dissertation is articulated on three studies. The first study (Study 1) focuses on RC columns internally reinforced with glass FRP (GFRP) bars; the second (Study 2) on RC prismatic columns externally confined by means of FRP laminates using glass and glass/basalt fibers; and the third (Study 3) is a theoretical attempt to interpret and capture the mechanics of the external FRP confinement of square RC columns. Study 1 describes an experimental campaign on full-scale GFRP RC columns under pure axial load undertaken using specimens with a 24 by 24 in. (0.61 by 0.61 m) square cross section. The study was conducted to investigate whether the compressive behavior of longitudinal GFRP bars impacts the column performance, and to understand the contribution of GFRP ties to the confinement of the concrete core, and to prevent instability of the longitudinal reinforcement. The results showed that the GFRP RC specimens behaved similarly to the steel RC counterpart, while the spacing of the ties strongly influenced the failure mode. Study 2 presents a pilot research that includes laboratory testing of full-scale square and rectangular RC columns externally confined with glass and basalt-glass FRP laminates and subjected to pure axial load. Specimens that are representative of full-scale building columns were designed according to a dated ACI 318 code (i.e., prior to 1970) for gravity loads only. The study was conducted to investigate how the external confinement affects ultimate axial strength and deformation of a prismatic RC column. The results showed that the FRP confinement increases concrete axial strength, but it is more effective in enhancing concrete strain capacity. The discussion of the results includes a comparison with the values obtained using existing constitutive models. Study 3 proposes a new theoretical framework to interpret and capture the physics of the FRP confinement of square RC columns subjected to pure compressive loads. The geometrical, physical and mechanical parameters governing the problem are analyzed and discussed. A single-parameter methodology for predicting the axial stress - axial strain curve for FRP-confined square RC columns is described. Fundamentals, basic assumptions and limitations are discussed. A simple design example is also presented.