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The Bends

Bending boundaries in concrete innovation

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With bragging rights of three hundred times more deformation capacity, more than twice the flexural strength and a higher compressive capacity than “normal” concrete, bendable concrete is an innovation to the industry. Bendable concrete – also known as engineered cementitious composites (ECC) or ductile concrete – has existed since the 1990s due to the call for a concrete that can retain its strength despite cracking.

Recently, after a year-and-a-half of development and improvement, researchers from Louisiana State University (LSU) in the USA have collaborated with nine major institutions and two community colleges to produce a cost-effective version of ECC than could be soon ready for mass production.

 “When you factor in the possibility of building pavements at half the thickness and the enhanced construction productivity due to the ability to construct pavements without joints, the cost of pavements with our ECC materials should be comparable to that of reliable concrete,” says Gabriel Arce, a senior research associate in the Bert S Turner Department of Construction Management at LSU and principal investigator on the LSU ECC project.

PPC Imaginarium

As ECC is more durable and reliable, recurring repair of the concrete is drastically reduced. This means that a long-term, more sustainable approach to transportation infrastructure is now more financially feasible. LSU’s engineered ECC is cheaper to produce than previously – it costs approximately two-and-a-half times that of regular concrete, while the original ECC costs four times more.

The research team experimented with a variety of raw materials to engineer the new formula. Several mixes were lengthily tested for compressive strength, tensile strength, deformation capacity, flexural performance, workability and cracking performance. The team found that an exact proportional ratio of PVA fibre, fine river sand and fly ash yielded a ductile concrete. These ingredients are additionally readily available to the US market where the concrete is being developed.

The team is looking to further develop the improved ECC with the Louisa Transportation Research Center Pavement Research Facility in order to accurately test road wear. Associate Professor of civil engineering at the University of New Mexico, USA, Susan Bogus, will be assisting Arce’s team to prepare the improved ECC at a large scale.

 

Pictures sourced from: ISU College of Engineering

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