Impact of salt and frost weathering on the physical and durability properties of travertines and carbonate tufas used as building material

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This study aims to understand the effect of salt and frost crystallisation on the petrophysical and durability properties of representative types of travertine and carbonate tufas. Results demonstrate that the studied travertines and tufas exhibit a very high durability against salt and ice crystallisation cycles, compared to carbonates rocks with similar porosity values. The variation of the loss of mass, effective porosity, capillary absorption coefficient, ultrasonic wave velocity and attenuation, and compressive strength was scarce during weathering tests. The evolution of petrophysical properties was slightly more intense after 30 cycles of salt crystallisation than 100 cycles of freeze–thaw. Petrophysical and durability properties of the travertines and carbonate tufas depend on porosity fraction and on the manner in which the vuggy porosity is connected. In the travertine facies, vuggy macropores show little connection and can be considered as separateug porosity. Their addition to interparticle porosity increases effective porosity and reduces their mechanical strength but does not significantly increase capillary transport and the effectiveness of salt and ice action over the stone. On the contrary, in the carbonate tufas, vugs actas touching-vug pores, as capillary imbibition coefficients reveal. However, scanning electron microscopy displays that they underwent microcracking processes related mainly to both thermal stresses and/or ice and salt pressures. These microcracks present little connection, and they do not enhance noticeably the water flow or decrease the mechanical properties. These results are finally discussed in terms of a nonlinear decay pattern, which with long periods of apparent stability might be followed by rapid and catastrophic decay.
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