Concrete is, quite literally, the foundation of our society. Now scientists at Swinburne University in Melbourne have developed a new type of “bendable” concrete that could better withstand earthquakes. What makes this even sweeter is that it’s made out of industrial waste.
Concrete is super important to modern civilisation, but it’s not without its flaws. Producing concrete isn’t particularly environmentally sound thanks to the need for cement as an effective binding agent, but Swinburne’s new composition does away with the need for cement altogether. Instead, it uses a mix that incorporates industrial waste agents such as fly ash, a common byproduct of coal-fired power stations.
“Production of this novel concrete requires about 36 per cent less energy and emits up to 76 per cent less carbon dioxide as compared to conventional bendable concrete made of cement,” said Swinburne University’s Dr Behzad Nematollahi, one of the two researchers who now hold a patent on the process.
Where it gets particularly clever is in solving one of the big issues with traditional cement-based concrete. It’s astonishingly brittle, and that means if you build in areas where significant earth movements such as earthquakes are likely, you’re putting yourself in the path of a world of hurt when it shatters and comes down around you.
This new concrete, as shown in the video above, isn’t destruction-proof, but it’s certainly capable of bending rather than breaking under forces that would quickly shatter ordinary cement-based concrete.
“Our laboratory test results showed that this novel concrete is about 400-times more bendable than normal concrete, yet has similar strength,” said Dr Nematollahi.
Buildings aren’t the only thing you can make from concrete, though. I’d love to see an update on this concrete computer keyboard in bendable concrete, for a start.