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

Second Committee Member

Jacqueline P. James

Third Committee Member

Fabio Matta

Fourth Committee Member

Brian Metrovich

Fifth Committee Member

Tim Ibell


The development of composite materials by combining two or more constituents with improved mechanical properties, when compared to either of the constituents alone, has existed since biblical times when straw or horse hair was mixed with clay or mud to produce bricks. During the second half of the twentieth century, modern composites known as fiber reinforced polymers (FRP) - consisting of a reinforcing phase (fibers) embedded into a matrix (polymeric resin or binder) - were developed to meet the performance challenges of space exploration and air travel. With time, externally-bonded FRP applications for strengthening of reinforced concrete (RC) structures gained popularity within the construction industry. To date, the confinement of RC columns using FRP systems is a convenient and well established solution to strengthen, repair and retrofit structural concrete members. This technology has become mainstream due to its cost effectiveness, and relative ease and speed of application with respect to alternative rehabilitation techniques such as steel or concrete jackets. However, significant margins exist to advance externally-bonded composite rehabilitation technologies by addressing economic, technological, and environmental issues posed by the use of organic polymer matrices, some of which are addressed in this dissertation. Articulated in three studies, the dissertation investigates the development of a sustainable, reversible, and compatible fiber reinforced cement-based matrix (FRC) composite system for concrete confinement applications in combination with a novel test method aimed at characterizing composites under hydrostatic pressure. Study 1 develops and characterizes a FRC system from different fiber and inorganic matrix combinations, while evaluating the confinement effectiveness in comparison to a conventional FRP system. The feasibility of making the application reversible was investigated by introducing a bond breaker between the concrete substrate and the composite jacket in a series of confined cylinders. The prototype FRC system produced a substantial increase in strength and deformability with respect to unconfined cylinders. A superior deformability was attained without the use of a bond breaker. The predominant failure mode was loss of compatibility due to fiber-matrix separation, which points to the need of improving fiber impregnation to enable a more efficient use of the constituent materials. Additionally semi-empirical linear and nonlinear models for ultimate compressive strength and deformation in FRC-confined concrete are also investigated. Study 2 compares through a life cycle assessment (LCA) method two retrofitting strategies: a conventional organic-based, with the developed inorganic-based composite system presented in Study 1, applied to concrete cylinders by analyzing three life cycle impact indicators: i) Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions, ii) embodied energy, and, iii) carbon foot print. Overall the cement-based composite provides an environmentally-benign alternative over polymer-based composite strengthening system. Results also provide quantitative information regarding the environmental and health impacts to aid with the decision-making process of design when selecting composite strengthening systems. Study 3 is divided into two parts, Part A presents the development of a novel "Investigation of Circumferential-strain Experimental" (ICE) methodology for characterization of circumferential (hoop) strain of composite laminates, while Part B uses the experimental data reported in Part A to explicitly evaluate the effect of FRP jacket curvature and laminate thickness on strain efficiency. Results showed that the proposed ICE methodology is simple, effective and reliable. Additionally, the ultimate circumferential strain values increased with increasing cylinder diameter, while being consistently lower when compared to similar flat coupon specimens under the same conditions. The ultimate FRP tensile strain was found to be a function of the radius of curvature and laminate thickness, for a given fiber ply density and number. The effect of these findings over current design guidelines for FRP confined concrete was also discussed.


Circumferential Tensile Strain; Confinement; Composites; Hoop Strain; Hydrostatic Pressure; Ice; Test Method; Water Expansion; Basalt Fibers; Cement-based Matrix; Confinement; Glass Fibers; Inorganic Matrix; Reversibility; Life Cycle Assessment