This paper reviews the main hypotheses proposed for the alkali-carbonate rock reaction, and presents evidence supporting the mechanism advanced by this laboratory. The latter postulates that the alkali-expansivity of certain carbonate rocks containing dolomite is due to a wetting of previously unwetted clay minerals; the wetting is made possible by the de-dolomitization reaction which produces access channels for moisture.

The new evidence consists of (a) no volume change of pure dolomite crystals immersed in 2M NaOH for 4 months; (b) the decreasing expansion of solid plus liquid of rock powders in 2M NaOH with increasing particle size of pure dolomite, using a dilatometer technique; (c) the observation from scanning electron micrographs of alkali-reactive and non-reactive rocks that much of the clay constituent appears to be distributed close to the dolomite rhombs, thus accounting more readily for the idea that dedolomitization opens up channels for moisture to gain access to the clay; and (d) a detailed study of some 50 carbonate rocks from the highly calcitic to the highly dolomitic with special emphasis on petrographic examinations and their correlations with results of laboratory performance.

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