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A new type of concrete coating can stabilize buildings against earthquakes

Earthquakes can cause a tremendous amount of damage in any modern city. Every time that happens people are talking about technologies that could prevent at least part of the damage and casualties. A new type of concrete, developed by the University of British Columbia, is designed to withstand earthquakes and is already stepping into the construction sites.

EDCC can be simply sprayed on various structures, reinforcing them against seismic shocks. Image credit: UBC

This material is like a special coating, which is strong, malleable, and ductile on the molecular scale. It is sprayed on walls in a thin layer (about 10 mm) and reinforces walls against seismic shocks as strong as the magnitude 9.0–9.1 earthquake that struck Tohoku, Japan in 2011. Now this material, formally known as EDCC, is being used to reinforce Vancouver elementary school.

Scientists are convinced that EDCC can save lives. They did conduct numerous of tests that proved that this material is like steel in many ways, reinforcing existing structures and preventing them from crumbling under seismic shocks. In fact, these tests were conducted to be as strong as the magnitude 9.0–9.1 earthquake that struck Tohoku. Proven effectiveness allowed including EDCC into the official seismic retrofit program in British Columbia. Since this material is new, scientists who created it will have to stay working with construction workers to seek out all the problems that may arise in the application. Although they are not anticipating any, since it is as straight forward to use as normal concrete.

The secret of EDCC is polymer-based fibres, flyash and other industrial additives – they take 70 % of the concrete and allow reducing the amount of cement used. Civil engineering professor Nemy Banthia, who supervised the work, said: “This is quite an urgent requirement as one tonne of cement production releases almost a tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the cement industry produces close to seven per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions”. In other words, EDCC is sustainable as well and, as local politicians noted, it is good for the economy.

However, buyers of the EDCC will be mostly interested in its properties rather than sustainability and economic benefits to the region. It is flexible and yet strong on the molecular level, making structures more stable. EDCC can also be used pipelines, pavements, offshore platforms, blast-resistant structures, and industrial floors.

 

Source: University of British Columbia

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