Climate protection through self prestressing concrete

New types of concrete should last longer, produce fewer greenhouse gases and be so stable that it is possible to build slimmer – i.e. more material-efficient – structures. Could a self-prestressing concrete be the solution?

Small pieces of wire Image source: Empa.

Researchers are already experimenting with reinforced concrete elements that are prestressed by heat rather than hydraulically. Moslem Shahverdi from Empa’s Structural Engineering lab would like to go one step further: Small pieces of wire, just two to three centimeters long, are distributed in the concrete.

Concrete that prestresses itself

If these wires, which are made of a special alloy known as shape memory alloys (SMA), are heated, they contract. This could produce concrete that prestresses itself in all spatial directions at the push of a button, as it were. And the material would be much stronger and more durable than conventional reinforced concrete we have been using for 140 years.

Researchers from two other Empa labs are supporting Shahverdi: Experts from the Concrete and Asphalt lab are developing concrete mixtures with a lower carbon footprint. And colleagues from the Mechanical Systems Engineering lab, who specialise in calculating the strength of small and large building components, can suggest particularly promising experimental setups to Shahverdi using so-called finite element simulations. This significantly reduces the number of actual experiments and helps researchers reach their goals faster.

More iformation can be found on the Empa website.

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