A team of researchers and engineers from the University of British Columbia recently invented a more robust and resilient type of concrete. The core of the invention is recycled tires, tire-derived fibers in particular. According to the UBC, the new type of concrete can be used to build structures like buildings, roads, dams, bridges, etc.

The UBC team used different proportions of tire fibers searching for an ideal mix, which eventually included 0.35 percent of tire-derived fibers, as found by UBC researcher Obinna Onuaguluchi who is a postdoctoral fellow in civil engineering.

Rubber-modified asphalt is not a new technology and roads from recycled tires are found in U.S., Germany, Spain, Brazil, China and other countries. But the new fiber-reinforced concrete developed by UBC utilizes polymer fibers to enhance resilience and life time of the material.

Onuaguluchi asserts that fiber inclusion reduces crack formation by over 90 percent compared to conventional concrete. While concrete structures develop micro-cracks over time, the polymer fibers would serve as a bridge protecting the structure and enabling it last longer.

Nemy Banthia, UBC civil engineering professor who supervised the work, claims that the technology potential could have a vast environmental and industrial impact. Daily, the world produces some three billion tires which contain around three million tons of tire-derived fiber. The bulk of tires end up in landfills and even when recycled, fibers are usually burnt or disposed of. However, if fibers are introduced into concrete, it could diminish tire industry’s footprint and reduce emissions of the whole construction industry (we would like to remind that cement is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions).

Banthia also serves as a scientific director of UBC-hosted Canada-India Research Center of Excellence (IC-IMPACTS) which is responsible for research partnerships and collaborations between the countries. He pinpoints that annually the industry uses almost six billion cubic meters of concrete and that fibers added in every cubic meter of the material could serve a good purpose for both environment and industry.

As the first application, the concrete was used to refurbish the steps in front of the McMillan building on UBC’s campus this May. The team has been tracking its performance using special sensors built in into the concrete. They monitor the concrete steps for strain development, cracking, etc. So far, the results corroborate conclusions made by the laboratory research, that is fibers from recycled tires significantly reduce concrete cracking.

Research description listed in Materials and Structures was supported by IC-IMPACTS, Tire Stewardship of British Columbia, Atlantis Holdings and Western Rubber Products – a recycler that supplied tire-derived fibers to UBC.

To see photos of fiber-reinforced concrete developed by UBC, please click here.

Article source: University of British Columbia