In a new development, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a new method to reinforce concrete using a polymer lattice. The advancement is such it could rival other polymer-based improvements, and improve ductility of concrete while reducing carbon emissions of the material.
For the study, the research team employed a 3D printer to create octet lattices using polymer, and then pack them with concrete that has ultra-high performance. Meanwhile, the strength of ultra-high performance concrete is four times than that of conventional concrete in compression. In fact, the reinforced material performed well in tests of four-point bending and compression.
Physical Attributes of Concrete makes it widely used
Reported in the journal Materials and Design, the technique could increase the appeal of concrete. In fact, concrete is one of the most widely used man-made materials, and one of the most used consumed substances in the world. And, it is abundant, cheap, and strong in compression capable of resisting excessively heavy loads.
However, concrete is known to be weak in tension. It is brittle and will begin to split when pulled apart. Therefore, if reinforcement is not used, a concrete structure could undergo catastrophic failure and break apart without warning.
Meanwhile, since the middle of the 19th century, concrete has been reinforced using steel rebar. However, the strength of steel has some downsides. It is expensive to produce, heavy, labor-intensive to install and degrades over time. To address this, today, a growing community of engineers are exploring the potential to reinforce concrete with polymers. This class of polymers are appealing because they are lightweight, corrosion free, and are cheap to produce due to an abundance of recyclable materials.
“For brittle material, it can hold up to a certain peak load and then fails,” said co-author of the study.