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Since the invention of concrete thousands of years ago, we have been able to build historic structures that seemed impossible to construct like the Pantheon and the Colosseum. Over time, concrete has continued to evolve from the early days of construction. We’ve gone from limestone mixed with clay, to the Roman limestone and volcanic ash mix, to the Portland cement, stone and sand mix. We are always seeing new additives and applications for concrete. Today, concrete is the second most consumed material in the world, only behind water.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s/early 1900s that concrete started being used for residential purposes. The first concrete street was poured in 1891 and it still exists today. This past century is where we have made the transition to using concrete in almost every piece of infrastructure. The Hoover Dam, the Grand Coulee Dam (the most concrete ever used on a project with 12 million cubic yards of concrete) and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai have all been constructed using concrete as the key component.
So where are the trends taking us now? We are seeing many exciting innovations that open possibilities for new applications for concrete. This means potential new business opportunities for companies.
There are retarders, water-reducers, accelerators, plasticizers and more. Controlling your concrete has never been so easy. The implementation of admixtures has been the biggest transformation in how we are able to control our concrete and they are still being developed. The National Precast Concrete Association believes that the admixtures on the horizon are universal air-entraining admixtures and high-range water reducers (HRWRs). While air-entrainments and water reducers are already on the market, we expect to see further developments with more unique attributes.
Advancements such as “self-healing” concrete are now in development. Binghamton University assistant professor Congrui Jin has found fungi called “Trichoderma Reesei”. He says it could be a solution to the cracking problem in our infrastructure.
He says: “The fungal spores, together with nutrients, can be placed into the concrete matrix during the mixing process. When cracking occurs, water and oxygen will find their way in. With enough water and oxygen, the dormant fungal spores will germinate, grow and precipitate calcium carbonate to heal the cracks. When the cracks are completely filled, and ultimately no more water or oxygen can enter inside, the fungi will again form spores. As the environmental conditions become favorable in later stages, the spores could be wakened again.”
Can you imagine the implications of this being a commercially viable technology? This could save cities billions of dollars in repairs and repours. Here is a quick overview from Binghamton University of the process:
There have been recent advancements in the development of “green” concrete. A new ingredient called graphene is being tested as an additive to concrete. The initial goal was to make concrete that was more environmentally-friendly and durable. However, they were not expecting the results they uncovered. Professor Monica Craciun of the University of Exeter was shocked when the concrete was proven to be more than twice as strong when including the graphene. She called it an “absolute game-changer.” More durability means less repairs. Being durable is one of the best ways to achieve green construction.
This is a type of advancement that could affect every major piece of infrastructure. Smaller concrete pours may not benefit from graphene, but major building contractors and engineers would most definitely jump at the opportunity to strengthen their concrete with this additive.
It is important that as participants in the concrete industry, we stay involved in the evolution of concrete. We need to be doing our best to stay informed of the latest developments in order to be thinking about how new technologies can help us find ways to evolve our businesses.
We are always seeing different varieties of concrete including polymer modified concrete, foamed concrete and more. A volumetric mixer may be the best way to adapt to work with new forms of concrete. Being able to fully customize your mix design and content gives you the flexibility that you would otherwise not have. Admixtures, aggregate types, fly ash and more can now be added to the concrete by yourself with the use of a volumetric mixer.
Learn more about the volumetric mixer features and why more and more people are recognizing their value every day.