A petrographic investigation into the durability of common replacement sandstones to the crystallisation of de-icing salts

Graham, Callum James (2016) A petrographic investigation into the durability of common replacement sandstones to the crystallisation of de-icing salts. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Scottish sandstone buildings are now suffering the long-term effects of salt-crystallisation damage, owing in part to the repeated deposition of de-icing salts during winter months. The use of de-icing salts is necessary in order to maintain safe road and pavement conditions during cold weather, but their use comes at a price. Sodium chloride (NaCl), which is used as the primary de-icing salt throughout the country, is a salt known to be damaging to sandstone masonry. However, there remains a range of alternative, commercially available de-icing salts. It is unknown however, what effect these salts have on porous building materials, such as sandstone. In order to protect our built heritage against salt-induced decay, it is vital to understand the effects of these different salts on the range of sandstone types that we see within the historic buildings of Scotland.

Eleven common types of sandstone were characterised using a suite of methods in order to understand their mineralogy, pore structure and their response to moisture movement, which are vital properties that govern a stone’s response to weathering and decay. Sandstones were then placed through a range of durability tests designed to measure their resistance to various weathering processes. Three salt crystallisation tests were undertaken on the sandstones over a range of 16 to 50 cycles, which tested their durability to NaCl, CaCl2, MgCl2 and a chloride blend salt. Samples were primarily analysed by measuring their dry weight loss after each cycle, visually after each cycle and by other complimentary methods in order to understand their changing response to moisture uptake after salt treatment.

Salt crystallisation was identified as the primary mechanism of decay across each salt, with the extent of damage in each sandstone influenced by environmental conditions and pore-grain properties of the stone. Damage recorded in salt crystallisation tests was ultimately caused by the generation of high crystallisation pressures within the confined pore networks of each stone.

Stone and test-specific parameters controlled the location and magnitude of damage, with the amount of micro-pores, their spatial distribution, the water absorption coefficient and the drying efficiency of each stone being identified as the most important stone-specific properties influencing salt-induced decay.

Strong correlations were found between the dry weight loss of NaCl treated samples and the proportion of pores <1µm in diameter. Crystallisation pressures are known to scale inversely with pore size, while the spatial distribution of these micro-pores is thought to influence the rate, overall extent and type of decay within the stone by concentrating crystallisation pressures in specific regions of the stone.

The water absorption determines the total amount of moisture entering into the stone, which represents the total amount of void space for salt crystallisation. The drying parameters on the other hand, ultimately control the distribution of salt crystallisation. Those stones that were characterised by a combination of a high proportion of micro-pores, high water absorption values and slow drying kinetics were shown to be most vulnerable to NaCl-induced decay.

CaCl2 and MgCl2 are shown to have similar crystallisation behaviour, forming thin crystalline sheets under low relative humidity and/or high temperature conditions. Distinct differences in their behaviour that are influenced by test specific criteria were identified. The location of MgCl2 crystallisation close to the stone surface, as influenced by prolonged drying under moderate temperature drying conditions, was identified as the main factor that caused substantial dry weight loss in specific stone types. CaCl2 solutions remained unaffected under these conditions and only crystallised under high temperatures. Homogeneous crystallisation of CaCl2 throughout the stone produced greater internal change, with little dry weight loss recorded.

NaCl formed distinctive isometric hopper crystals that caused damage through the non-equilibrium growth of salts in trapped regions of the stone. Damage was sustained as granular decay and contour scaling across most stone types.

The pore network and hydric properties of the stones continually evolve in response to salt crystallisation, creating a dynamic system whereby the initial, known properties of clean quarried stone will not continually govern the processes of salt crystallisation, nor indeed can they continually predict the behaviour of stone to salt-induced decay.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Sandstone, de-icing salts, crystallisation, petrographic, heritage, conservation.
Subjects: Q Science > QE Geology
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Earth Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Lee, Professor Martin
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Mr Callum James Graham
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7412
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2016 09:15
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2016 09:57
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7412

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