Innovations That Matter

The polyethene fibres offer the same amount of structural support as steel fibres and cling well to cement | Photo source Alain Herzog / 2019 EPFL

Reinforced concrete offers hope as a greener alternative

Property & Construction

The polyethene fibres offer the same amount of structural support as steel fibres and cling well to cement

Spotted: In the Structural Maintenance and Safety Laboratory of the Swiss Federal Research Institute (EPFL), Amir Hajiesmaeli, a PhD student, developed a new type of fibre-reinforced concrete. This new mixture replaces steel-reinforcing fibres with polyethene fibre.

The polyethene fibres offer the same amount of structural support as steel fibres and cling well to cement, which could mean that half as much cement is required in this ultra-high-performance fibre-reinforced concrete (UHPFRC).

A new, polymer rebar developed at Australia’s Deakin University, which requires only one quarter as much energy as that of conventional steel rebar, could also be used along with the EPFL concrete in a further push towards an even more eco-friendly approach.

After three years of trial-and-error, the right recipe that fits the criteria needed for repairing and maintaining concrete structures was found. Plans now call for the new UHPFRC to see its first real-world application next year, where it will be used to reinforce a bridge.    

Email: florence.grandjean@epfl.ch

Website: epfl.ch/labs/mcs

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