Scientists at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have developed a new concrete mixture that is stronger than traditional recipes but also flexible, which helps it reduce skid resistance once installed. The research team behind the cleverly named ConFlexPave say its unique properties mean it could cut installation time in half for new roads, parking lots, and other paved surfaces. The time savings come from the ability to precast slabs of ConFlexPave, which are thinner and lighter than traditional concrete mixtures.
The secret to ConFlexPave’s strength and flexibility is the polymer microfiber it contains, which allows the slabs to bend under pressure without cracking. The new concrete was developed by a team working at NTU-JTC Industrial Infrastructure Innovation Centre (I³C) at NTU Singapore. Researchers say the flexible concrete slabs will speed up construction timelines, as well as cut down on maintenance over time, making for a more sustainable product. NTU Assistant Professor Yang En-Hua, lead researcher on the study, said the key to developing this next-generation building material was understanding how all the components interact with one another mechanically on a microscopic level. “With detailed understanding, we can then deliberately select ingredients and engineer the tailoring of components, so our final material can fulfill specific requirements needed for road and pavement applications,” said En-Hua in a statement.
ConFlexPave’s unique composition puts it in another category than traditional concrete mixtures used in many building projects, which are heavy and prone to damage. “The hard materials [in ConFlexPave] give a non-slip surface texture while the microfibres which are thinner than the width of a human hair, distribute the load across the whole slab, resulting in a concrete that is tough as metal and at least twice as strong as conventional concrete under bending,” said En-Hua.
So far, the research team has tested slabs of the new flexible concrete that are the size of a tablet computer. Over the next three years, the team will scale up testing with larger installations on the JTC campus, where ConFlexPave will really be put through the paces (from foot traffic as well as vehicles).