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Does Bendable Concrete Exist?

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  • Written By: S. Mithra
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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Since we use "concrete" colloquially to mean fixed, well defined, or inflexible, it may seem unbelievable that bendable concrete exists. However, in 2005, some civil engineers at the University of Michigan developed this innovative material, that will doubtless change the face of construction. Bendable concrete, with the help of interlocking fibers, actually flexes to absorb pressure, changes in temperature, and movement.

Ordinary concrete is made from a slurry of large aggregate rocks, smaller aggregate, and the inflexible mortar that bonds them together. Once it sets and dries, though, it becomes a stiff slab that will crack and buckle in cycles of freezing and thawing, earthquakes, or when a heavy truck drives over it. Therefore, it was a goal of civil engineers to figure out how to extend the life of roads, as well as make them better able to withstand environmental factors. Constantly replacing roads, bridges, and parking lots is very expensive, time-consuming, and inconvenient for commuters.

Amazingly, researchers have developed a versatile product called bendable concrete. The concrete is technically a composite because it mixes special fibers with regular concrete. The fibers account for some of the flexibility and strength because they distribute weight evenly throughout the slab. They also flex when met with a lot of pressure. The fibers move their position slightly to accommodate the added weight.

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Not only is bendable concrete ductile, but recent tests have shown that it is much lighter. This is important for applications like bridges, where more weight means more expense in materials and construction. Furthermore, bendable concrete takes less energy and releases less carbon dioxide in its manufacturing.

Even before this new kind of concrete gets widely implemented, it is compatible with today's roads. Bendable concrete can be used as patching material for existing potholes or cracks. Since it is a relatively recent development, there is still much research and further improvement necessary before it is accepted as a feasible alternative to traditional pavement.

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