Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) have developed a bendable variety of concrete called ConFlexPave, which in addition to its increased flexibility, is both stronger and more durable than traditional concrete. Working at the NTU-JTC Industrial Infrastructure Innovation Centre (I³C), the team created the material by introducing polymer microfibers into the concrete mixture.
The innovation also allows for the production of slim precast pavement slabs, increasing installation speed. It is anticipated to be used in infrastructural projects, halving the amount of time needed for road works and new pavements while also requiring less maintenance.
NTU Professor Chu Jian, Interim Co-Director of the NTU-JTC I³C, comments, “We developed a new type of concrete that can greatly reduce the thickness and weight of precast pavement slabs, hence enabling speedy plug-and-play installation, where new concrete slabs prepared off-site can easily replace worn out ones.”
Standard concrete consists of a cured mixture of cement, water, gravel and sand, which produces a strong, yet brittle product that is prone to cracking. The addition of synthetic fibers into ConFlexPave remedies this issue by allowing the concrete to flex and bend under tension. The resulting product also has demonstrated an enhanced skid resistance.
According to Assistant Prof Yang En-Hua from NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, leader of this research at the NTU-JTC I³C, the key breakthrough was found by studying how the material components interacted with one another on a microscopic level.
“With detailed understanding, we can then deliberately select ingredients and engineer the tailoring of components, so our final material can fulfill specific requirements needed for road and pavement applications,” explained Prof Yang.
“The hard materials give a non-slip surface texture while the microfibres which are thinner than the width of a human hair, distribute the load across the whole slab, resulting in a concrete that is tough as metal and at least twice as strong as conventional concrete under bending,” he added.
Currently, tablet-sized samples of the material have been successfully tested at NTU laboratories. Over the next three years, the material will be scaled up for further testing in areas exposed to human and vehicular traffic.
News via Nanyang Technical University.