What adds another dimension to this durability-sustainability R&D strive is the growing consciousness about environmental issues. We are beginning to not just look at cement differently but are working towards making new environmental-friendly building materials that involve concrete. New cements that have reduced environmental impact are already being used worldwide; what we need to develop are newer models that support these new-age materials and new durability concepts for design, based on performance requirements.

On the table, the Billy Earl Dade Middle School project, a replacement school for the Dallas Independent School District, assessed and concluded a 14-month construction period. However due to time constraints, when the officials asked for the project to be cut short by 4 months, the construction team faced a major concrete drying problem. After much consideration, the team selected the Aridus Rapid Drying Concrete. It is a ready-mix that helps prevent moisture-related flooring failures and is known for fast drying, compressive strength, and low permeability as the base concrete material. In just 21 days after the concrete was poured, the crew confidently installed the final flooring – the students had a new school to go to in the fall. Regular cement on the other hand, would have extended the project's completion by 4 more months.

In another leap in R&D endeavours, researchers in Belgium and the Netherlands are working on a biological self-healing concrete. This concrete has bacterial spores embedded within; when cracks develop in the concrete, the bacteria are exposed to water and oxygen and begin to metabolize the calcium lactate or urea into calcium carbonate (limestone). The limestone fills the cracks and prevents moisture from seeping into the cement.

Apart from R&D, technology too has played an important role in cementing new ideas in the use of concrete. It is now widely known that adding optical fibres to a concrete mix makes the concrete translucent. Now no longer opaque, see-through concrete is definitely a possibility.

Reactive Powder Concrete is another variation with huge potential. It comes with ultra-high strength without using coarse aggregates and is capable of reaching compressive strengths of 30,000 pounds per square inch (psi). Mixed with steel and synthetic fibres, this concrete even attains enviable tensile strength.

Image source: www.gizmag.com/berkeley-researchers-pioneer-powder-based-concrete-3d-printing/36515/pictures#10

A conversation on innovative concrete applications will be incomplete without a mention of Concrete Printing – a concept that sounds right out of futuristic science fiction. A team in Loughborough University has developed a 3-D printer that uses a special type of cement that gets deposited in layers as per precise computer generated instructions. The greatest benefit of this process is greater precision, which in turn leads to reduced waste and less carbon dioxide emissions. One can also greatly reduce the costs involved in transportation and energy because printing can be enabled onsite with ease.

In a nutshell, what the human imagination can make of concrete can be summed up in three simple words: Anything is possible.

If you have any interesting articles, stories or tips you'd like to share with us, then do mail us on ultratech.social@adityabirla.com

    Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of UltraTech Cement.

  • Next
  • Prev