Inhibiting freeze-thaw damage in cement paste and concrete by mimicking nature’s antifreeze

May 27, 2020

Shane D. Frazier (1), Mohammad G. Matar (2), Jorge Osio-Norgaard (2), Anastasia N. Aday (1), Elizabeth A. Delesky (1), Wil V. Srubar III (1,2)
Cell Reports Physical Science, 1, Issue 6, May 2020. DOI: 10.1016/j.xcrp.2020.100060


antifreeze proteins, biomimicry, antifreeze polymers, ice recrystallization inhibition,dynamic ice shaping, cement paste, concrete, freeze-thaw deterioration


Since the 1930s, surfactant-based air-entraining admixtures (AEAs) have been used to mitigate freeze-thaw damage in cementitious materials. While effective, entrained air voids weaken concrete and increase its permeability, thereby increasing susceptibility to multiple other forms of in situ degradation. Inspired by nature, we report that a soluble biomimetic antifreeze polymer that displays ice recrystallization inhibition (IRI) and dynamic ice shaping (DIS) activities can prevent damage from ice crystal growth in cement paste and concrete. We first report that polyethylene glycol-graft-polyvinyl alcohol (PEG-PVA) mimics the explicit IRI and DIS activity of native ice-binding proteins in high-pH media characteristic of concrete pore solution. Second, we report that addition of PEG-PVA to cement paste and concrete prevents freeze-thaw damage without entraining air. Taken together, the findings demonstrate an alternative mechanistic approach to AEAs that can be leveraged to prevent damage from ice crystal growth in cementitious materials.

How Our Software Was Used

Dragonfly was used to generate the reconstructions, to calculate the scanned volume of the sample and volume of all voids.

Author Affiliation

(1) Materials Science and Engineering Program, University of Colorado Boulder, UCB 027, Boulder, CO 80303, USA.
(2) Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder, UCB 428, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.