Characterization of the Punching Shear Capacity of Thin Ultra-high Performance Concrete Slabs

Report No: 05-CR26

Published in 2005

About the report:

Ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) is a relatively new type of concrete that exhibits mechanical properties that are far superior to those of conventional concrete and in some cases rival those of steel. The main characteristics that distinguish UHPC from conventional reinforced concrete are its very high compressive strength (20 to 33 ksi), the addition of steel fibers which enables tension to be carried across open cracks without conventional reinforcing steel, and a very high resistance to corrosion and degradation. The mechanical properties of UHPC allow for smaller, thinner sections as compared to conventional reinforced concrete sections. However, as it is a new material, the use of UHPC has been limited to a few structural applications due primarily to the high cost of the material and the lack of established design guidelines. In previous research, a material model based on physical tests was used in conjunction with finite element models to develop an optimized cross-section for a prestressed UHPC girder for bridge applications. The cross-section is a double-tee with bulbs at the bottoms of the webs to accommodate the prestressing strands. As it is envisioned in bridge applications, the double-tees will be placed directly adjacent to one another, and the top flange will act as the riding surface after a thin asphalt overlay is placed. Based on the longitudinal compressive stresses, the top flange of the girder can be quite thin. However, there exists the possibility that a punching shear failure could occur from the application of a point load such as a wheel patch load if the flange is made too thin. The research reported herein was initiated to characterize the punching shear capacity of thin UHPC plates and to develop recommendations on the minimum top flange thickness for the optimized double-tee. Twelve small slabs (45 in x 45 in) were tested to failure to characterize the punching shear strength of UHPC. The variables considered were the slab thickness (2, 2.5, and 3 in) and loading plate dimensions (from 1 in x 1 in to 3 in x 3 in). The results of the testing were compared to several existing models for punching shear. The two equations that predicted strengths most reliably were the current ACI punching shear equation and a modified bolt pull-out equation. After evaluation of the test results, the minimum slab thickness required to prevent a punching shear failure in the top flange due to an 8 in x 20 in wheel patch was determined to be 1 in. Three larger slabs were also tested. These slabs had the same clear span length as the top flange of the optimized double-tee and were loaded with a wheel patch load. The slabs were all approximately 3 in thick and all failed in flexure rather than punching shear. It was concluded that the casting method has a strong influence on the orientation of the steel fibers, which in turn influences the flexural strength in orthogonal directions in the slab. The top flange thickness will be governed by transverse bending rather than punching shear, and the 3 in slabs were not able to support the full wheel load plus impact and load factor. The results of this research help in the continued optimization of a UHPC shape for use in highway bridges. If material use in the girder is minimized, UHPC bridges can become economically competitive with HPC bridges, but offer the benefits of more rapid construction and better durability.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • Devin K. Harris, Carin L. Roberts-Wollmann, Michael C. Brown, Ph.D., P.E.

Last updated: November 28, 2023

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