Polypropylene Fibers

The capability of durable structure to resist weathering action, chemical attack, abrasion and other degradation processes during its service life with the minimal maintenance is equally important as the capacity of a structure to resist the loads applied on it. Although concrete offers many advantages regarding mechanical characteristics and economic aspects of the construction, the brittle behavior of the material remains a larger handicap for the seismic and other applications where flexible behaviour is essentially required. Recently, however the development of polypropylene fiber-reinforced concrete (PFRC) has provided a technical basis for improving these deficiencies. This paper presents an overview of the effect of polypropylene (PP) fibers on various properties of concrete in fresh and hardened state such as compressive strength, tensile strength, flexural strength, workability, bond strength, fracture properties, creep strain, impact and chloride penetration. The role of fibers in crack prevention has also been discussed.

Polypropylene fibers were first suggested as an admixture to concrete in 1965 for the construction of blast resistant buildings for the US Corps of Engineers. The fiber has subsequently been improved further and at present it is used either as short discontinuous fibrillated material for production of fiber reinforced concrete or a continuous mat for production of thin sheet components. Since then the use of these fibers has increased tremendously in construction of structures because addition of fibers in concrete improves the toughness, flexural strength, tensile strength and impact strength as well as failure mode of concrete. Polypropylene twine is cheap, abundantly available, and like all manmade fibers of a consistent quality.

Properties of Polypropylene Fibers

The raw material of polypropylene is derived from monomeric C3H6 which is purely hydrocarbon. Its mode of polymerization, its high molecular weight and the way it is processed into fibers combine to give polypropylene fibers very useful properties as explained below [9]:

  • There is a sterically regular atomic arrangement in the polymer molecule and high crystallinity. Due to regular structure, it is known as isotactic polypropylene.

  • Chemical inertness makes the fibers resistant to most chemicals. Any chemical that will not attack the concrete constituents will have no effect on the fiber either. On contact with more aggressive chemicals, the concrete will always deteriorate first.

  • The hydrophobic surface not being wet by cement paste helps to prevent chopped fibers from balling effect during mixing like other fibers.

  • The water demand is nil for polypropylene fibers.

  • The orientation leaves the film weak in the lateral direction which facilitates fibrillations. The cement matrix can therefore penetrate in the mesh structure between the individual fibrils and create a mechanical bond between matrix and fiber.