Cement has been a key element in concrete ever since it was invented by Joseph Aspdin in 1824 because of its ability to bind other building materials together.
There are certain disadvantages to using cement though, like the fact that cement has low tensile strength and poor resistance to deformation. To get around these disadvantages, researchers from the Swinburne University of Technology have created a type of concrete capable of bending under stress thanks to the use of waste materials instead of cement.
According to the team of researchers, concrete is the second most-consumed material by humans after water. The problem with this is that when traditional concrete is either stretched or bent, it’s prone to shatter, especially in earthquake zones. Traditional concrete also has a huge carbon footprint because of the calcination of limestone, a key element in producing concrete.
To create their new cement, researchers took a page from the Ancient Romans book of engineering, who used volcanic ash and quicklime instead of traditional cement. However, instead of emulating the Romans beat-for-beat, modern-day researchers used a type of ash called ‘fly ash’, a fine powder byproduct that comes from burning pulverized coal in electric generation power plants. They also added short polymeric fibers to their new concrete mixture which allows it to withstand multiple hairline cracks under tension or bending without breaking into pieces.
According to Dr. Behzad Nematollahi, a researcher who worked on the material, the newly developed concrete emits up to 70% less carbon dioxide when compared to conventional concrete and uses 36% less energy to produce. Along with being more environmentally friendly, the new concrete is 400 times more bendable than regular concrete, making it the perfect material to use in earthquake zones.
Take a look at the newly developed concrete in action in the video below.