Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Alberto Sagüés, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nathan Crane, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Xiao Li, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gray Mullins, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Simkins, Ph.D.


Durability, Forecast, Macrocell, Marine, Modeling


Corrosion initiates in reinforced concrete structures exposed to marine environments when the chloride ion concentration at the surface of an embedded steel reinforcing bar exceeds the chloride corrosion threshold (CT) value. The value of CT is generally assumed to have a conservative fixed value ranging from 0.2% to - 0.5 % of chloride ions by weight of cement. However, extensive experimental investigations confirmed that CT is not a fixed value and that the value of CT depends on many variables. Among those, the potential of passive steel embedded in concrete is a key influential factor on the value of CT and has received little attention in the literature. The phenomenon of a potential-dependent threshold (PDT) permits accounting for corrosion macrocell coupling between active and passive steel assembly components in corrosion forecast models, avoiding overly conservative long-term damage projections and leading to more efficient design. The objectives of this investigation was to 1) expand by a systematic experimental assessment the knowledge and data base on how dependent the chloride threshold is on the potential of the steel embedded in concrete and 2) introduce the chloride threshold dependence on steel potential as an integral part of corrosion-related service life prediction of reinforced concrete structures. Experimental assessments on PDT were found in the literature but for a limited set of conditions. Therefore, experiments were conducted with mortar and concrete specimens and exposed to conditions more representative of the field than those previously available. The experimental results confirmed the presence of the PDT effect and provided supporting information to use a value of -550 mV per decade of Cl- for the cathodic prevention slope βCT, a critical quantitative input for implementation in a practical model. A refinement of a previous corrosion initiation-propagation model that incorporated PDT in a partially submerged reinforced concrete column in sea water was developed. Corrosion was assumed to start when the chloride corrosion threshold was reached in an active steel zone of a given size, followed by recalculating the potential distribution and update threshold values over the entire system at each time step. Notably, results of this work indicated that when PDT is ignored, as is the case in present forecasting model practice, the corrosion damage prediction can be overly conservative which could lead to structural overdesign or misguided future damage management planning. Implementation of PDT in next-generation models is therefore highly desirable. However, developing a mathematical model that forecasts the corrosion damage of an entire marine structure with a fully implemented PDT module can result in excessive computational complexity. Hence, a provisional simplified approach for incorporating the effect of PDT was developed. The approach uses a correction function to be applied to projections that have been computed using the traditional procedures.