Stronger, Tougher, Better – The Future of Concrete

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Concrete has undergone some great advances in recent years, both in how it’s made and how it’s poured. Chances are, you’re either using these new forms of concrete already or will be in the near future.

 

Here are just a few ways concrete has changed for the better:

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Inflatable Forms

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Creating a dome out of concrete results in a sturdy, strong structure…but it’s a serious headache to build. It takes a lot of time and labor, making it one of the more expensive concrete applications

 

Enter the inflatable concrete form.

 

Developed by engineers Johann Kollegger and Benjamin Kromoser at the Vienna University of Technology, the inflatable form allows concrete domes to be built quickly, at a fraction of the cost.

 

How does it work? First, they started with a concrete form that has several segments separated by wedge-shaped spaces. An air cushion underneath can be inflated after the concrete wedges harden. Because of their shapes, the wedges form a perfect fit when they’re raised in unison — this simultaneous raising is ensured by steel cables tightened around the segments. This technique, while using traditional concrete, represents a promising new pour method that can be used to build structures in a variety of shapes to suit the application.

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Superhydrophobic Concrete

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Want your next road, bridge, or other concrete project to last 120 years? Think it’s impossible?

 

Maybe not. A team of civil engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have invented a new form of concrete that can withstand wear and tear and repel water.

 

Thanks to tiny, yet extremely strong fibers in the mix, this concrete is 200 times more ductile than regular concrete, helping prevent tiny cracks from turning into huge ones. It’s also superhydrophobic — liquid beads and rolls right off the surface instead of getting inside the concrete where it can freeze and form cracks. Dubbed Superhydrophobic Engineered Cementitious Composite (SECC), this new material can handle four times the compression of regular concrete. Because of this durability, engineers are confident that SECC can hold up with little to no maintenance for more than 100 years.

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UHPC (Ultra-High Performance Concrete)

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Our final example of advanced is called Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC), also known as Reactive Powder Concrete (RPC). As the name implies, UHPC tends to outperform other types of concrete, with properties that make it strong, yet flexible enough to be compatible for multiple types of projects.

 

Based on sand and cement like traditional concrete, UHPC also includes powdered, pure quartz, along with several metals and fibers. These extra components make UHPC able to handle more compression than traditional concrete — many times more, in the case of a commercial version made in France. It also has more flexibility than traditional concrete, making it an ideal choice for lighter buildings with thinner walls.

 

Engineers are currently working on different forms of UHPC with different components added to the mix. This research could result in new forms of concrete with customized properties to suit a range of commercial applications.

These are a few of the ways in which concrete is advancing by leaps and bounds. Thanks to these new, stronger building materials, your next concrete project could last well into the next century.

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