Concrete, the construction industry’s building material of choice for hundreds of years, is an extremely tough and durable product. Being such a rigid product, concrete has inherently poor tensile strength, which is its ability to withstand being stretched, as opposed to compressing. This poor tensile strength leads to cracking, which eventually leads to failure. Scientists have been racing to discover the cure to concrete’s cracking problem for years, most notably Henk Jonkers’ bio-concrete, which uses microorganisms to “heal” cracked concrete.
The newest challengers to the material’s flexibility problem are a group of scientists from Nanyung Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. The team calls their product “ConFlexPave” and it not only bends under pressure, unlike concrete, it’s also thinner and maybe even stronger than its traditional brethren. In a press release, NTU Professor Chu Jian explained, “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.”
Calling the material concrete may be a bit of a stretch, however, because it doesn’t follow the same general recipe of normal concrete. ConFlexPave is a mixture of hard materials and polymer microfibers, instead of cement, aggregate, and water. It looks like concrete, though, and it also provides a non-slip surface texture that the team hopes will be perfect for road construction.
Laboratory testing has already begun on the product, with promising results on small “tablet-sized” slabs. NTU will be partnering with JTC, a developer of industrial infrastructure, to test larger slabs’ durability when faced with human and vehicular traffic over the next 3 years.
Video above by SciNews