Bendable concrete developed at Swinburne

Photo: Dr Behzad Nematollahi with a sample of the novel concrete developed at Swinburne University of Technology.

A new type of concrete made out of waste materials that can bend under load has been developed and patented by researchers at Swinburne.

“Concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world,” Dr Behzad Nematollahi said.

“In fact, it is the second-most consumed material by human beings after water. Its quality has a massive effect on the resilience of our infrastructure such as buildings, bridges and tunnels.”

The new material, developed and patented by Nematollahi and Professor Jay Sanjayan from Swinburne’s Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Digital Construction, is able to bend when force is applied to it, whereas traditional concrete is prone to shatter when being stretched or bent.

“Building in areas vulnerable to that sort of natural disaster is one of the main uses that we can see for this material,” Nematollahi said.

Buildings made from the new material will be much more likely to remain intact during earthquakes, as well as hurricanes, projectile impacts, and blasts.

“Our laboratory test results showed that this novel concrete is about 400-times more bendable than normal concrete yet has similar strength.”

Furthermore, the inclusion of short polymeric fibres in this novel concrete allows it to sustain multiple hair-sized cracks when put under tension or bending and not break into pieces.

Traditional concrete also has a huge carbon footprint due to calcination of limestone to produce its key ingredient, cement. By using industrial waste products such as fly ash, a by-product of coal-fired power stations, the production of this material requires less energy than conventional concrete, making the product more sustainable.

“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,” Nematollahi said.