Research Adds New Dimension to Concrete
Alan Richardson, chairman of the United Kingdom-based Concrete Society and associate professor in the Mechanical and Construction Engineering Department at Northumbria University (Newcastle, England), is working with academic colleagues from India and Canada-based universities to create a tougher form of concrete.
The new type of concrete uses an innovative 3D-fiber reinforcement versus the traditional 2D variety. This new concrete would significantly lower the fatality rate caused by earthquakes, bomb explosions and other nature or human-created disasters, according to researchers.
“We have seen that during terrorist attacks such as the Madrid bombings in 2004, many of the injuries that occurred were due to flying concrete shrapnel,” said Richardson.
“This is because the 2D steel fibers currently used in concrete production are randomly spread throughout the mix and may not be particularly effective at holding together the concrete in the event of an explosion.”
During early trials, the new technique resulted in being 78 percent more effective in holding together under shock waves. The concrete also showed less ejected materials that would be consequential from events such as bomb blasts in the event of a terrorist attack.
Unlike the use of volcanic ash additives, using steel fibers that are shaped in a loop and angled at 90 degrees, while maintaining about the same size as the 2D varieties, increases the energy absorption of the material, making for less intesive reactions.
These findings demonstrate the toughness of the material would make it ideal for the construction of various defenses, barriers, bridges and buildings inside known earthquake zones, researchers say. The strength also means using less concrete, ensuing smaller or more visually appealing structures.
The 3D steel fibers are currently being produced in India, while concrete is mixed and tested at Northumbria’s STEM facilities.
Richardson is currently working with Professor Urmil Dave from Ahedabad University (Gujarat, India) and Professor Rishi Gupta from the University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada) to further develop the research.
As part of a Knowledge Exchange Partnership, Richardson hopes that the combined universities can work with the industry to take their research to the product stage.
Recognized as one of U.K.’s leading experts in sustainable materials, fiber concrete and concrete durability, Richardson has previously aided the development of a "self-healing" concrete. His research studied the use of bacteria to seal cracks, preventing what is called, "concrete cancer."
Before his academic role at Northumbria University, he was the managing director of construction company Elliot Richardson Ltd.
Richardson’s paper, "Improving the Performance of Concrete Using 3D Fibres," has since been published in Procedia Engineering (Vol. 51) and can be viewed on ScienceDirect.
Any person or organization interested in finding out more about Richardson’s research or collaborating future developments, should email: firstname.lastname@example.org.