Concrete may be a good choice for sidewalks, but it is a brittle material. This means that it needs to be poured thick, to keep those sidewalks from cracking under pressure. Scientists from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University are developing an alternative, so they created bendable concrete that could be easily applied as relatively thin, light paving slabs.
Generally, concrete is made from a mix of cement, gravel, sand and water. The new material, known as ConFlexPave, also contains polymer microfibers (thinner than the width of a human hair). They serve to distribute loads equally across the entire slab, instead of keeping them focused in one location.
The ConFlexPave is allegedly “tough as metal and at least twice as strong as conventional concrete under bending.” The polymer microfibers are also claimed to enhance the material’s skid resistance.
The researchers envision the slabs being produced ahead of time in a factory, and then just being brought to construction sites and laid down as needed. This would not only be less labor-intensive than pouring traditional concrete, they say, but it would also save some time. When damage did eventually happen, slabs one by one could just be pulled out and replaced – as is already the case with brittler regular concrete paving slabs.
ConFlexPave has been tested in the lab, using tablet-sized pieces and there are some plans to install full-size slabs around the university campus, just to see how they stand up to pedestrian and vehicular traffic over the next three years.