The University of Manchester and the British firm Nationwide Engineering plans to launch a new product: Concretene. Some consider it a gamechanger in concrete. Product creators tested Concretene on the construction of a gym floor in Amesbury, Wiltshire. Builders used 30% less material than standard concrete, without the need for steel reinforcement. Concretene creators claim that their product could save as much as 10-20% in costs.
The innovation includes graphene—a single layer of carbon atoms; these strengthen Concretene by around 30% compared to standard RC30 concrete. Builders require less concrete for the same amount of strength. Less material means more savings.
Nationwide Engineering plans to test Concretene on an application more ambitious than a gym floor; their sights lie on the HS2 Highspeed Rail project, projected to use 19.7 million tons of concrete. Concretene faces hurdles before approval for such a massive infrastructure project. But a projected 10-20% savings entices all parties.
Concretene uses graphene-enhanced technology as opposed to typical concrete, which uses hydration and gelation to set. Water and cement form a paste that hardens over time. Graphene aids the process by acting as a catalyst for the hydration reaction and by providing mechanical support. Builders can use Concretene just like standard concrete with no special trucks or mixers.
Dr. Craig Dawson, Application Manager at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, explained further: “We have produced a graphene-based additive mixture that is non-disruptive at the point of use. That means we can dose our additive directly at the batching plant where the concrete is being produced as part of their existing system, so there’s no change to production or to the construction guys laying the floor.”
The University of Manchester and the British Firm Nationwide Engineering use the Amesbury site as a “living laboratory” to see how Concretene holds up; they intend to push it forward into more rigorous applications. Concretene, the new concrete additive product, might be a flash in the pan, or it could be a new staple of concrete production going forward.