As America’s bridges, roads and the rest of our infrastructure is getting older, any news that could extend our infrastructure’s lifespan is welcome. A team of Canadian researchers recently announced that they have developed a form of high strength concrete that lasts 20 years longer than the best concrete today.
Dr. Daniel Cusson led the research at the NRC Institute for Research in Construction, Canada’s top construction research agency. The new concrete has been developed specifically to minimize shrinkage and reduce cracking. The source of the additional strength/lifespan for the concrete is based on the sand mixture used in the mixing process. A “lightweight porous fine shale” sand is mixed in with the normal sands used to create concrete, accounting for about 25% of the overall sand mix. The new shale sand can hold water more efficiently than traditional sands and serves to cure the concrete on the inside as well as on the surface, reducing cracking and shrinking failure.
The new concrete mix costs about 5% more than traditional concretes but if it truly ads 20 years to the lifecycle of bridges (some of the most expensive infrastructure to build and maintain) than it’s well worth the small additional upfront costs. Additional testing is currently underway at the NRC’s outdoor testing facility; however the new concrete has already booked its first project, a $75 million bridge replacement project in conjunction with Federal Bridge Corp. Only time and testing will tell if this new concrete technology is as good as advertised, but all indications point to mass adoption of the new concrete, especially for bridge building or repair projects.
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