Experimental studies on the effect of SO2 on the mechanical properties of selected cladding natural stones

Vera Pires, Luis G. Rosa, P. M. Amaral, Amélia Dionísio, Joaquim Simão

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Natural stones are influenced by environmental conditions that might affect their performance and durability as building cladding
elements. Among these environmental conditions, one that is not well explored is the study of the impact of SO2 deposition on the mechanical
properties of ornamental stones. In this paper, the effect of a SO2-rich atmosphere (constant 10 ppm, with cyclic variations of temperature and
relative humidity) on the physical-mechanical properties of some stones from Portugal (three granites and two limestones) is evaluated.
Comparative studies on unaged and artificially SO2-aged samples were conducted. Samples were characterized by stereomicroscopy,
scanning electron microscopy–X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), weight variation, and evaluation of elastic dynamic
modulus through the fundamental resonance method and of flexural strength under concentrated load. Three granites—Amarelo de Vila
Real, Cinzento de Alpalhão, and Cinzento de Pedras Salgadas—and two limestones—Moleanos and Semi-Rijo—from Portugal were chosen,
as they are commonly used as cladding natural stones on façades. The obtained results showed that SO2 reacted with both silicate and
carbonate stones; neoformed calcium sulfates were identified through SEM with different morphologies and in distinct levels. Its formation
induced macro- and microstructural and mechanical modifications. Indeed, calcium sulfate crystallization critically affected mechanical
performance through a reduction of elastic modulus and flexural strength in different degrees. Based on the flexural strength and dynamic
modulus of elasticity variations, it is possible to recognize that only one granite, Cinzento de Alpalhão, presented lower failure risk in a
cladding application. Thus, in urban SO2-rich environments, the effect of this pollutant on natural stone performance should be considered in
the material selection stage, leading to improved cladding stone behavior and thus increasing stone service life.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbervol. 34, issue 6
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Materials in Civil Engineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • Building façade cladding; Granites and limestones from Portugal; SO2 aging; Dynamic modulus of elasticity; Flexural strength; Stone decay.


Dive into the research topics of 'Experimental studies on the effect of SO2 on the mechanical properties of selected cladding natural stones'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this