The age of bendable concrete
As materials research continues its inexorable march into a hi-tech future, new principles are reshaping old methods. Take, for example, the new bendable concrete that researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have devised.
This advanced new material could reduce the time needed for road work by more than half, according to researchers. The method relies on a particular innovation: precast pavement slabs. A precast method provides efficient installation and sustainable manufacturing.
But how does it work? Consider that typical concrete is made up of cement, water, gravel and sand. Combined, this material forms a solid and strong block, but is hardly flexible.
Made with certain hard materials mixed with flexible polymer microfibers, the synthetic polymer fibers allow the concrete to retain its strength while also allowing it to flex under strain. This material also increases skid-resistance.
As with so many material breakthroughs, the key to this method was understanding how the different components interacted with each other at the microscopic level. The result? A substance as tough as a metal substrate and double the strength of traditional concrete under tension.
How soon before we see this advanced material as city roads? Don’t hold your breath. NTU will be scaling up testing over the next three years, with commercialization still at least five years away.