Scientists from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have created a ‘bendable’ concrete that is stronger and longer lasting than regular concrete.
Concrete tends to be heavy, brittle, and often breaks under tension. Its negatives aside, concrete is the best choice for sidewalks. However, since it’s brittle, it needs to be poured thick in order to keep those sidewalks from cracking under pressure.
Now NTU researchers have developed a new type of slim precast pavement concrete called ConFlexPave that can halve the time needed for road works and new pavements. It is also more sustainable, requiring less maintenance, contends the research group from the NTU-JTC Industrial Infrastructure Innovation Centre (I³C).
Typical concrete comprises cement, water, gravel and sand. While this mixture makes concrete hard and strong, it does not promote flexibility. Thus concrete is brittle and prone to cracks if too much weight is applied.
ConFlexPave is specifically engineered to have certain types of hard materials mixed with polymer microfibers. The inclusion of these special synthetic fibers, besides allowing the concrete to flex and bend under tension, also enhances skid resistance.
The key breakthrough lays in understanding how the components of the materials interact with one another mechanically on a microscopic level, said Asst Prof Yang En-Hua from NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering who leads this research at the NTU-JTC I³C.
“With detailed understanding, we can then deliberately select ingredients and engineer the tailoring of components, so our final material can fulfill specific requirements needed for road and pavement applications,” explained Yang.
“The hard materials give a non-slip surface texture while the microfibers which are thinner than the width of a human hair, distribute the load across the whole slab, resulting in a concrete that is tough as metal and at least twice as strong as conventional concrete under bending,” he added.
ConFlexPave has already been successfully tested as tablet-sized slabs at NTU laboratories. It will be scaled up for further testing over the next three years in partnership with JTC – at suitable locations within JTC’s industrial estates and in NTU where there will be human and vehicular traffic.
Image credits: Nanyang Technological University