Fire performance of restrained polymer-fibre-reinforced concrete composite slabs
Fox, David Christopher Alexander
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Composite slab flooring systems for steel-framed buildings consist of a profiled steel deck and a cast in-situ slab. The slab traditionally includes a layer of light gauge steel mesh reinforcement. This mesh is placed near the surface, which controls the early-age cracking caused by concrete drying and shrinkage. The steel mesh also performs a vital structural role at high temperatures. Structural fire tests and numerical investigations over the last 15 years have established that the mesh can provide enhanced fire resistance. A load-carrying mechanism occurs in fire with the mesh acting as a tensile catenary, spanning between perimeter supports. This structural mechanism is currently utilised regularly in the performance-based fire engineering design of steel-framed buildings. In a recent development, this mesh can be removed by using concrete with dispersed polymer fibre reinforcement to form the composite slab. The polymer-fibre-reinforced concrete (PFRC) is poured onto the deck as normal, and the fibres resist early crack development. For developers this technique has several advantages over traditional reinforcing mesh, such as lower steel costs, easier site operations and faster construction. However, to date the fire resistance of such slabs has been demonstrated only to a limited extent. Single element furnace tests with permissible deflection criteria have formed the basis for the fire design of such slabs. But these have not captured the full fire response of a structurally restrained fibre-reinforced slab in a continuous frame. The polymer fibres dispersed throughout the slab have a melting point of 160ºC, and it is unclear how they contribute to overall fire resistance. In particular, there has been no explanation of how such slabs interact with the structural perimeter to maintain robustness at high deflections. This project was designed to investigate the structural fire behaviour of restrained polymer-fibre-reinforced composite slabs. An experimental series of six slab experiments was designed to investigate the effects of fibre reinforcement and boundary restraint. A testing rig capable of recording the actions generated by the heat-affected slab was developed and constructed. Model-scale slab specimens were tested with different reinforcement and perimeter support conditions, to establish the contributions to fire resistance of the polymer fibres and applied structural restraint.