To date, the most effective way to engineer strong concrete has been to use steel bars, often called rebar, to shore up the structure when the concrete is poured. From simple driveways to buildings and the roads we drive on, this is the way that concrete is made. However, this method does have its drawbacks, particularly when it is used heavily. In addition, as the costs of steel go up, this method has gotten increasingly expensive.
A new study highlights the fact that there may be a more effective method of creating strong concrete. In fact, this new method has already been proven to be vastly superior. Instead of relying on steel bars, this new process actually combines steel fibers within the concrete itself, as it is poured. The new type of concrete has been called: steel fiber reinforced self-compacting concrete (SFRSCC).
A similar method is already being employed in prefabricated buildings, but the mixture has a tendency to be overly runny and it is difficult to accurately measure out the amount that needs to be used.
One of the biggest issues that occurs with conventional concrete is that as it dries over the steel bars, it cracks as the material compacts. This new method greatly reduced cracking, due to the fact that the steel fibers are literally part of the concrete, instead of just having the concrete poured around them. This in turn leads to more stability, less cracking, and a stronger material that is ideal for buildings, roads and other applications.
The study authored by Aimar Orbe-Mateo (UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country) stated in part that, “the fibers orientated themselves in the direction we were interested in, thanks to the fluid nature of the self-compacting concrete. These simulations showed us that the orientation that the fibers are going to take can be predicted. That way we can detect the weak points and unsuitable concreting processes in advance.”
Orbe-Mateo will face some challenges with the introduction of this new method. Rebar has been used for so many years in the pouring of concrete and contractors are hesistant to try anything new that could compromise the integrity of their structures. However, he is attempting to raise awareness and convince contractors to give this method a try. It will certainly take time to prove that SFRSCC is a better material and Orbe-Mateo is determined to get his message across.
These new findings are great news for engineers and students who are interested in changing the way we build in the future. There are numerous opportunities available to improve building systems and these engineers have the ability to completely change our futures for the better.
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