Wide-range optical pH imaging of cementitious materials exposed to chemically corrosive environments

Bernhard Müller*, Cyrill Grengg, Viktor Schallert, Marlene Sakoparnig, Christoph Staudinger, Johanna Breininger, Florian Mittermayr, Birgit Ungerböck, Sergey Borisov, Martin Dietzel, Torsten Mayr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The pH of concrete‐based material is a key parameter for the assessment of its stability and durability, since a change in pH is usually associated with major types of chemical degradation such as carbonation, leaching and acid attacks. Conventional surface pH measurements with potentiometric flat surface electrodes have low spatial resolution, whereas optical pH visualization with indicator dyes (phenolphthalein) only indicates the areas with higher or lower pH than the pKa of the indicator. In this regard, it is key to develop wide‐range imaging systems, enabling accurate and spatially resolved determination of pH variability for an advanced knowledge of degradation mechanisms. This contribution presents the enhancements made for a high‐resolution optical pH imaging system based on fluorescent aza‐BODIPY indicator dyes. The measurement range was increased to 6 pH units (pH 6.5 to pH 12.5) by a combination of two indicator dyes. Moreover, background scattering effects were sufficiently eliminated. With the improved sensor foils steep pH gradients (up to 3 pH units within 2 mm) were successfully recorded in various concrete specimens using a macro lens reaching a resolution of down to 35 μm per pixel.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-45
JournalRILEM Technical Letters
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2018


  • optical pH sensors
  • pH-sensitive dyes
  • concrete carbonation
  • bio-corrosion


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