Apr 20, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

UWM Researchers Developed Waterproof Concrete, Could Make Potholes Disappear

Mar 31, 2017 01:53 AM EDT

Water is the most common enemy of concrete. Though concrete prevents constant beatings from trucks and cars. But water can break it down and infiltrate the tiniest cracks.

Now to overcome this problem, researcher Konstantin Sobolev has created waterproof concrete. It is impervious and unaffected by the liquid form of water, reported by Basic Concrete and Cement Principles.

Beside the water resistance variety, the UWM professor of civil engineering has made other high-performance concrete composites. This waterproof concrete is designed to flex, making them ultimately stronger and some even combat air pollution.

This material has such a high level of crack control that their service life is pegged at 120 years. According to Phys.Org, Konstantin Sobolev’s main weapon against water is called “Superhydrophobic engineered cementitious composite”. It may sound complex but the main purpose of this concrete is fighting with moisture in two ways.

This whole experiment is made by Sobolev in his lab at College of Engineering and Applied Science. He said that a nano-additive changes the concrete on a molecular level when the pavement hardens and resulting in a spiky surface at the microscopic level. This causes water to bead up and rolls off, much as droplets do on tiny hairs covering the leaves of some plants.

There are so many water-control methods available, but none of them can completely waterproof the concrete. However, Sobolev combines them with a fiber reinforcement strategy that eliminates the source of large cracks and addresses the brittleness inherent in high-strength concrete.

The size of high-density polyethylene fibers is like a human hair. This polyethylene fiber mixed into the concrete and bond with it. When cracks begin, the fibers prevent them from opening and becoming larger gaps. In fact, Sobolev isn't trying to eliminate cracking. He wants to direct the process in a preferred way, resulting in evenly distributed micro cracking.

Sobolev's water-resistant composites have generated lots of attention since 2014. He is also developing a pervious concrete that allows water to pass right through it and soak into the ground below. This strategy is also called ice-prevention strategy that also has great potential for use in green infrastructure.

However, Sobolev is creating a titanium dioxide-based catalyst that's added to the concrete mix. When the sunshine hits the hardened pavement, it activates the catalyst and then breaks down organic contaminants from the vehicle exhaust near the concrete.

Experts claimed that the material is still in the testing and commercialization stage. It could be used with traditional concrete applications to act in the same manner.

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