Argon Broad Ion beam sectioning and high resolution scanning electron microscopy imaging of hydrated alite
Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) imaging is able to visualize micro- to nano-structures of cement and concrete. A prerequisite is that the sample preparation preserves the native structure of the specimen. In this study, argon Broad Ion Beam (BIB) sectioning is compared to state-of-the-art sample preparation (resin embedding, polishing) for hydrated alite. Additionally, it is investigated if during BIB, sample cooling is beneficial to avoid deterioration of cement hydrates. The aim is to quantitatively measure phase and pore size distributions in hardened alite pastes. Therefore, not only optimized sample preparation but also optimized imaging conditions are investigated. Finally, it is demonstrated that by image analysis pores down to a diameter of 5 nm in hydrated alite pastes can be quantitatively analysed.