Technology keeps getting better and better – the other day, we featured Dyesol’s window that captures energy from light-releasing electrons that is then trapped and conducted as electricity, and today, we bring you Michelle Pelletier’s (a University of Rhode Island master’s degree candidate) new self-healing concrete. Currently, concrete is the most widely used building material, yet as the structures age, concrete cracks – and what begins as a slight crack can turn into a massive problem. Pelletier’s solution is a type of “smart concrete” that self heals to economically extend the life of the structure.
More about this cool new material after the break.
The new solution takes a microencapsulated sodium silicate healing agent and embeds it into the concrete. When stress cracks begin to form, the capsules rupture and release the healing agent which reacts with the calcium hydroxide present in the concrete to heal the cracks and block the pores in the concrete. The chemical reaction creates a gel-like material that hardens in about one week.
Whew…although that may seem like too much chemistry, basically, this method will allow the healing agent to be activated in affected areas, and the concrete will recover 26 percent of its original strength (after being stressed to near breaking) versus just 10 percent recovery by the standard mix.
Using this self-healing concrete can also reduce the CO2 emissions emitted from the intensive production on concrete; the industry is actually responsible for about 10 percent of all CO2 emissions in the US.
“If self-healing concrete can lengthen the life of the concrete and reduce maintenance and repairs, it will ultimately reduce the production of excess amounts of concrete and result in a decrease in CO2 emissions,” Pelletier added.