Aggregates compose the largest single component in concrete and significantly affect its strength, durability and appearance. The mechanical properties of concrete are affected by the strength of the cement-aggregate bond and by other factors such as texture and soundness of the rock. External agencies attack concrete and reduce its durability by both physical and chemical processes. Physical mechanisms include cyclical freezing and thawing, wetting and drying. Chemical deterioration results from reaction with sulphate-bearing waters, acids, a marine environment, industrial effluents and similar corrosives. Internal compatibility is essential, as deleterious interaction between concrete constituents may cause poor durability, as in the case of expansive alkali-aggregate reactions. Deliberate exposure of aggregates, sometimes used architecturally, may give concrete a pleasing appearance, but localized stains from weathering of aggregate particles lead to an unsightly appearance. Relatively few attempts have been made to improve aggregate properties artificially and ‘unsound’ aggregate is simply rejected. Depletion of good quality supplies near major centres of construction suggests that more pre-treatment of marginal aggregates may become economically attractive in the future.

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