Alkali-carbonate mitigation testing is a process used to assess the potential for alkali-carbonate reactions (ACR) in concrete or cementitious materials. ACR is a chemical reaction that can occur between certain types of aggregates used in concrete and the alkali content of the cement paste. It can lead to the formation of expansive products, resulting in cracking and potentially compromising the structural integrity of the concrete.


The purpose of alkali-carbonate mitigation testing is to evaluate the reactivity of aggregates and determine if they have the potential to cause ACR. The testing typically involves subjecting the aggregates to specific laboratory procedures, such as the mortar-bar method or the concrete prism test, which simulates the conditions found in concrete structures.


During the testing, the aggregates are mixed with cement paste and subjected to specific curing conditions over a period of time. The specimens are then examined for signs of expansion or cracking. By analyzing the results, engineers can determine the susceptibility of the aggregates to ACR and make informed decisions about their suitability for use in concrete construction.


ACR mitigation strategies may involve using low-alkali cement, employing mineral admixtures, such as fly ash or slag, or selecting alternative non-reactive aggregates. The testing helps identify the need for such measures. In addition, it ensures that appropriate precautions are taken to prevent or minimize the potential damage caused by alkali-carbonate reactions in concrete structures.


The steps for alkali-carbonate mitigation testing typically involve the following:

  • Sample Collection: Aggregates are collected from the potential sources used in the concrete mix. These aggregates may include limestone, dolomite, or other carbonate-bearing rocks that have the potential to react with alkalis in cement.
  • Specimen Preparation: A representative aggregate sample is selected and processed for the required particle size distribution. The aggregate is then mixed with cement paste in specific proportions to create test specimens.
  • Test Method Selection: Various test methods can be employed to evaluate alkali-carbonate reactivity, including the mortar-bar process and the concrete prism test. The test method selection depends on factors such as project specifications, available resources, and laboratory expertise.
  • Test Specimen Casting: The prepared mixture of aggregate and cement paste is cast into molds according to the requirements of the chosen test method. Care is taken to ensure proper compaction and consolidation to eliminate potential voids.
  • Curing: The test specimens are subjected to controlled curing conditions, typically involving specific temperature and humidity levels. Curing durations may vary depending on the test method and standards being followed.
  • Monitoring: The test specimens are periodically monitored during the curing period to assess any signs of expansion, cracking, or other undesirable reactions. Measurements and observations are recorded to track the progression of any potential alkali-carbonate responses.
  • Evaluation: The test specimens are carefully examined at the end of the specified curing period. Any signs of expansion or cracking are noted, and the extent of damage is assessed. Comparisons may be made with control specimens to determine the reactivity of the aggregate.
  • Reporting and Recommendations: The test results are analyzed, and a report is generated summarizing the findings. Based on the evaluation, recommendations are provided regarding the suitability of the tested aggregates for use in concrete construction. In addition, mitigation strategies, such as using low-alkali cement or alternative non-reactive aggregates, may be suggested if necessary.


It’s important to note that specific testing procedures may vary depending on the standards and guidelines followed by the testing laboratory or organization conducting the alkali-carbonate mitigation testing.


The alkali-carbonate mitigation test provides valuable information about the reactivity of aggregates and their potential to cause alkali-carbonate reactions (ACR) in concrete. In addition, the test helps determine aggregates’ susceptibility to ACR and provides insights into the potential damage they may cause to concrete structures.


The test results can tell you several important things:

  • Aggregate Reactivity: The test identifies whether the aggregates used in the test specimens are reactive or non-reactive when exposed to alkalis in cement. Reactive aggregates have the potential to cause ACR, while non-reactive aggregates do not exhibit significant reactivity.
  • Expansion and Cracking: The test evaluates expansion and cracking in the test specimens. If the aggregates are reactive, the test can show whether they cause noticeable expansion or cracking over the specified curing period. This information helps assess the potential for damage to concrete structures if reactive aggregates are used.
  • Severity of Reaction: By monitoring the extent of expansion or cracking, the test indicates the severity of alkali-carbonate reactions. This information helps to understand the potential impact on the long-term performance and durability of the concrete.
  • Mitigation Strategies: The test results guide engineers and construction professionals in determining appropriate mitigation strategies. If the aggregates show reactivity, recommendations may be provided on using low-alkali cement, incorporating mineral admixtures, or selecting alternative non-reactive aggregates to minimize the risk of ACR.


Overall, the alkali-carbonate mitigation test helps make informed decisions about selecting and using aggregates in concrete construction. In addition, it provides critical information for mitigating the potential damage caused by ACR and ensures the durability and structural integrity of concrete structures.


Several ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards are commonly used in alkali-carbonate mitigation testing. However, the criteria may vary depending on the testing method and the project’s requirements. Here are a few ASTM standards frequently referenced in alkali-carbonate testing:

  • ASTM C227/C227M – Standard Test Method for Potential Alkali Reactivity of Cement-Aggregate Combinations (Mortar-Bar Method): This standard provides a procedure for determining the potential alkali reactivity of cement-aggregate combinations using mortar bars. It outlines the preparation, curing, and testing of mortar bars to assess the potential for alkali-carbonate reactions.
  • ASTM C1293 – Standard Test Method for Determination of Length Change of Concrete Due to Alkali-Carbonate Rock Reaction: This standard covers the determination of the length change of concrete due to alkali-carbonate rock reaction. It specifies the preparation of concrete prisms incorporating aggregates and the testing procedures to evaluate expansion caused by alkali-carbonate reactions.
  • ASTM C586 – Standard Test Method for Potential Alkali Reactivity of Carbonate Rocks for Concrete Aggregates (Rock-Cylinder Method): This standard provides a procedure for determining the potential alkali reactivity of carbonate rocks used as concrete aggregates. It involves the preparation of rock cylinders and subjecting them to specific curing conditions to evaluate expansion and potential reactivity.
  • ASTM C1260 – Standard Test Method for Potential Alkali Reactivity of Aggregates (Mortar-Bar Method): This standard describes the procedure for determining the potential alkali reactivity of aggregates using mortar bars. It involves preparing, curing, and testing mortar bars to assess the potential for alkali-carbonate reactions.
  • ASTM C1567 – Standard Test Method for Determining the Potential Alkali-Silica Reactivity of Combinations of Cementitious Materials and Aggregate (Accelerated Mortar-Bar Method): While not specific to alkali-carbonate reactions, this standard provides a method for evaluating the potential alkali-silica reactivity of cementitious materials and aggregates. It can be used as a reference with other tests for comprehensive evaluation.


These are just a few examples of the ASTM standards commonly employed in alkali-carbonate mitigation testing. It is vital to consult the specific project requirements and testing protocols to determine the appropriate ASTM standards for a particular testing scenario.