The mix design of ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) is complicated by the presence of many "ingredients." The fundamental packing density allows a simpler mix design with fewer ingredients to achieve optimum packing density and dense microstructure. The optimum particle grading increases the flowability of UHPC and eliminates entrapped air. This study presents a simplified particle grading design approach that positively influences the strength, autogenous shrinkage, and microstructure characteristics of UHPC. Carbon nanofibers (CNFs) of superior mechanical properties were added to enhance the strength of UHPC and to reduce its autogenous shrinkage. In addition, ground granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBS) was used as a cement replacement material to reduce the amount of cement in UHPC mixes. Test results showed that the presence of homogeneously dispersed CNF increased the compressive strength and compensated the autogenous shrinkage of UHPC. The findings indicated that an ideal particle distribution, which is close to the modified Andreasen and Andersen grading model, contributed to achieving high compressive strength and CNFs were capable of providing nano-bridges to compensate the shrinkage caused by GGBS.
Keywords: autogenous shrinkage; carbon nanofibers (CNFs); compressive strength; entrapped air; flowability; microstructure; nanostructure; particle grading; ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC).