It is essential that the cement concrete does not undergo large change in volume after setting.
Cement: Soundness Test
It is essential that the cement concrete does not undergo large change in volume after setting. This is ensured by limiting the quantities of free lime and magnesia which slake slowly causing change in volume of cement (known as unsound). Soundness of cement may be tested by Le-Chatelier method or by autoclave method. For OPC, RHC, LHC and PPC it is limited to 10 mm, whereas for HAC and SSC it should not exceed 5 mm.
Importance: It is a very important test to assure the quality of cement since an unsound cement produces cracks, distortion and disintegration, ultimately leading to failure.
Conditions Affecting Soundness: The main cause for unsoundness in Portland cement is the hydration of the uncombined lime encased within the cement particles. Exposed, finely ground, free lime in small percentages, hydrates before the cement sets and produces no injurious effect. The uncombined lime in cement is a result of either underburning the clinker or of excess lime in the raw materials. Freshly ground cement is often unsound due to the presence of uncombined lime. Cement is thus allowed to aerate for two to three weeks, allowing the lime to hydrate, to overcome unsoundness.
Fine grinding of the raw material and clinker help to produce a sound cement. By grinding fine the raw materials, it is possible to produce a homogeneous mixture before burning where the lime is uniformly distributed. The coarse grains of cement may imprison minute particles of uncombined lime which do not hydrate. These lime particles on hydralion produce disintegration.