Role of steric repulsions on the precipitation kinetics and the structure of calcium-silicate-hydrate gels

A Yadav and NMA Krishnan, SOFT MATTER, 17, 8902-8914 (2021).

DOI: 10.1039/d1sm00838b

The microstructure and properties of calcium-silicate-hydrate (C-S-H) gels are largely controlled by the physicochemical environment during their precipitation. However, the role of the steric repulsive environment induced by the pore solution chemistry on the kinetics, structure, and properties of C-S-H gels remains unclear. Here, we develop two potential formalisms, namely sinusoidal and polynomial, to simulate the role of steric repulsions in C-S-H. The results show excellent agreement with experimental observations of precipitation kinetics and elastic properties. We demonstrate that the repulsive interactions result in delayed precipitation and percolation, and an open and branched microstructure. Interestingly, the elastic properties (which are equilibrium properties) are also significantly affected by these second-neighbor interactions. Overall, the present study demonstrates that the kinetics, structure, and equilibrium properties of colloidal gels are controlled by the steric repulsions induced by the chemical environment.

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