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Next Thing in Intelligent Buildings: Smart Concrete

By Sheena Mohan  |  Posted 11-05-2005 Print Email

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Carbon fibers in cement help engineers to detect structural flaws.

"Smart concrete" looks just like its poorly educated cousin, but contains tiny carbon fibers that could make it the future material of choice for buildings or levees. The fibers are thinner than a human hair and measure about 5mm long. But throw a bunch of them—about 0.2 percent of volume—into the mix and the concrete that results is stronger and more sensitive. According to Professor Deborah D.L. Chung of the State University of New York at Buffalo, who patented smart concrete in 1998, the material's electrical resistance—which changes with damage or deformation—can be measured with special meters to discover structural weaknesses before they cause damage. Don't get too excited about the prospect of having the smartest foundation on the block, however, since smart concrete has not yet been approved for wide commercial use.



 

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