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Last edited 08 Jan 2018
Smart concrete technology offers an alternative method for monitoring the health of reinforced concrete structures. It was developed Dr. Deborah D.L. Chung from State University of New York at Buffalo, U.S. The unique benefit of smart concrete is that it is fortified by carbon fiber, which comprises as much as 0.2% to 0.5% of the volume. This can detect stress or strain in concrete structures before they fail. Smart concrete technology has undergone extensive laboratory testing, but is yet to hit the market.
It works by adding a small quantity of short carbon fiber to concrete with a conventional concrete mixer to modify the electrical resistance of the concrete in response to strain or stress. As a result, the contact between the fiber and cement matrix is impacted when the concrete is deformed or stressed, thereby affecting the volume electrical resistivity of the concrete. The strain is then determined by measuring the degree of electrical resistance. Smart concrete is capable of sensing very small structural flaws and hence finds application in checking the internal condition of structures, particularly after an earthquake.
One factor that may contribute to the global smart concrete market is the widespread use of concrete as a composite material and its inability to withstand tension. This necessitates monitoring for cracks to allow timely repair. Other methods to evaluate cracks are by attaching or embedding sensors into structures. Sensors, however, cost more to install. Smart concrete is relatively cheaper.
The growth in the smart buildings market is likely to encourage the quick uptake of smart concrete. This is because in addition to their basic functionality of detecting minor cracks, smart concrete also helps to arrest the progress of cracks, reinforcing them to make them stronger. Further, it takes a lot of force for smart concrete to bend, and it is able to accept more energy before fracture.
Smart concrete can also find application in building highways able to detect the position, weight, and speed of vehicles.
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