International Research Team Creates Tougher, Innovative Concrete

Northumbria University professor Alan Richardson (pictured) is working with academic colleagues from India- and Canada-based universities to create a tougher form of concrete that can reduce the fatalities caused by bomb blasts, earthquakes, and other disasters. Photo courtesy of Northumbria University.

A leading expert in sustainable materials from Northumbria University (Newcastle, England) is collaborating with academic colleagues from around the world to develop a tougher form of concrete that may reduce the fatalities caused by natural and man-made disasters.

Alan Richardson, an associate professor in Northumbria’s Mechanical and Construction Engineering Department, is developing this research with Urmil Dave from Ahmedabad University (Gujarat, India) and Rishi Gupta of the University of Victoria (British Colombia, Canada). The three researchers are creating concrete that uses a closed-loop three-dimensional (CL3D) fiber that makes it ideally suited for sea defenses such as dikes and seawalls, traffic barriers, bridges, and buildings inside earthquake zones.

As opposed to traditional two-dimensional fibers, the CL3D fiber material requires less concrete, resulting in a host of aesthetic and environmental benefits. In addition, early trials of the CL3D fiber-reinforced concrete have shown that it is 78% more effective at holding together under shock waves and has far less fragmentation in the event of an explosion.

“We have been researching the use of steel fibers shaped in a loop and then angled at 90 degrees,” says Richardson, who also serves as chairman of the Northern Region of the Concrete Society. “When added to concrete we have found they increase the energy absorption of the material, making them far more effective at holding the aggregate together, resulting in a much tougher product.”

As part of the collaborative nature of this project, the steel fibers are being produced in India, with the concrete then mixed and texted at Northumbria’s science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) facilities. According to Richardson, the three universities represent “the perfect mix of experience, technology and enthusiasm to make this product a reality. What we now need is a partner in industry to help take this research to the next stage.”

To that end, Richardson says the researchers are in the process of completing a larger scale trial of three-dimensional closed loop fibers that they expect to show a significant difference between the two fiber types in favor of the CL3D fiber. Once the new trial is completed and published, Richardson says they will be looking for a company to commercialize the fiber type.

An online version of Richardson’s paper, “Improving the Performance of Concrete using 3D Fibres,” is now available at ScienceDirect.

Source: Northumbria University,