As used in concrete, fibers are discontinuous, discrete units. They may be described by their aspect ratio, the ratio of length to equivalent diameter. Fibers find their greatest use in crack control of concrete flatwork, especially slabs on grade.
The most commonly used types of fibers in concrete are synthetics, which include polypropylene, nylon, polyester, and polyethylene materials. Specialty synthetics include aramid, carbon, and acrylic fibers. Glass-fiber-reinforced concrete is made using E-glass and alkali-resistant (AR) glass fibers. Steel fibers are chopped high-tensile or stainless steel.
Fibers should be dispersed uniformly throughout a mix. Orientation of the fibers in concrete generally is random. Conventional reinforcement, in contrast, typically is oriented in one or two directions, generally in planes parallel to the surface.
Further, welded-wire fabric or reinforcing steel bars must be held in position as concrete is placed. Regardless of the type, fibers are effective in crack control because they provide omnidirectional reinforcement to the concrete matrix. With steel fibers, impact strength and toughness of concrete may be greatly improved and flexural and fatigue strengths enhanced.
Synthetic fibers are typically used to replace welded-wire fabric as secondary reinforcing for crack control in concrete flatwork. Depending on the fiber length, the fiber can limit the size and spread of plastic shrinkage cracks or both plastic and drying shrinkage cracks. Although synthetic fibers are not designed to provide structural properties, slabs tested in accordance with ASTM E72, Standard Methods of Conducting Strength Tests of Panels for Building Construction, showed that test slabs reinforced with synthetic fibers carried greater uniform loads than slabs containing welded wire fabric. While much of the research for synthetic fibers has used reinforcement ratios greater than 2%, the common field practice is to use 0.1% (1.5 lb /yd3). This dosage provides more cross-sectional area than 10-gage weldedwire fabric. The empirical results indicate that cracking is significantly reduced and is controlled. A further benefit of fibers is that after the initial cracking, the fibers tend to hold the concrete together.
Aramid, carbon, and acrylic fibers have been studied for structural applications, such as wrapping concrete columns to provide additional strength. Other possible uses are for corrosion-resistance structures. The higher costs of the specialty synthetics limit their use in general construction.
Glass-fiber-reinforced concrete (GFRC) is used to construct many types of building elements, including architectural wall panels, roofing tiles, and water tanks. The full potential of GFRC has not been attained because the E-glass fibers are alkali reactive and the AR-glass fibers are subject to embrittlement, possibly from infiltration of calcium-hydroxide particles.
Steel fibers can be used as a structural material and replace conventional reinforcing steel. The volume of steel fiber in a mix ranges from 0.5 to 2%. Much work has been done to develop rapid repair methods using thin panels of densely packed steel fibers and a cement paste squeegeed into the steel matrix. American Concrete Institute Committee 544 states in Guide for Specifying, Mixing, Placing, and Finishing Steel Fiber Reinforced Concrete, ACI 544.3R, that, in structural members such as beams, columns, and floors not on grade, reinforcing steel should be provided to support the total tensile load. In other cases, fibers can be used to reduce section thickness or improve performance. See also ACI 344.1R and 344.2R.