This bendable concrete needs no cement

Lots of people probably think that cement and concrete are the same thing. Cement is a component in concrete that some researchers are trying to eliminate. Researchers from the Swinburne University of Technology have created a new type of concrete that is made from waste materials.

The new concrete can bend under load, making it suitable for construction in earthquake zones. The waste product used in the concrete is fly ash, a by-product of coal-fired power stations. In earthquake zones, the brittle nature of traditional concrete can lead to building collapses. Concrete is the most widely used building material around the world.

The team says that concrete is the second-most consumed material by humans after water. Traditional concrete is prone to shatter when stretched or bent and has a huge carbon footprint due to the calcination of limestone to produce cement, the key ingredient in concrete. Using industrial waste products has allowed the team to make the concrete more durable.

Production of their new concrete needs about 36 percent less energy and emits up to 76 percent less carbon dioxide compared to conventional bendable concrete made of cement. The team also included short polymeric fibers in the new concrete to allow it to sustain multiple hairline cracks under tension or bending without breaking into pieces.

According to tests, the new concrete is about 400 times more bendable than normal concrete while retaining similar strength. The team has not indicated when or if the new concrete might be ready for commercial use. The main use envisioned for the material is building in areas vulnerable to earthquakes, hurricanes, projectile impacts, and blasts.