A team of scientist from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore have created a new type of concrete that is set to have a massive impact on the construction industry. This new concrete material, called ConFlexPave, is flexible, stronger and more durable than traditional concrete, and is expected to reduce road construction works by half.
"We developed a new type of concrete that can greatly reduce the thickness and weight of precast pavement slabs, hence enabling speedy plug-and-play installation, where new concrete slabs prepared off-site can easily replace worn out ones," said NTU Professor Chu Jian, Interim Co-Director of the NTU-JTC I³C on the project.
How ConFlexPave concrete works
Standard concrete is made of cement, water, gravel and sand, and is often prone to cracks. ConFlexPave has been specifically engineered to have certain types of hard materials mixed with polymer micro fibres. It’s the inclusion of these special synthetic fibres that allows the concrete to flex and bend under tension, while also enhancing its skid resistance.
For assistant professor Yang En-Hua from NTU's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who lead the research at the NTU-JTC I³C, understanding how the components of the materials interact with one another mechanically on a microscopic level, was an integral part of the research.
"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 Prof Yang.
"The hard materials give a non-slip surface texture while the micro fibres, which are thinner than the width of a human hair, distribute the load across the whole slab, resulting in a concrete that is as tough as metal and at least twice as strong as conventional concrete under bending," he added.
Currently, ConFlexPave has been successfully tested as tablet-sized slabs at NTU laboratories. Over the next three years they plan to test the material out in areas exposed to human and vehicular traffic.