Wednesday, June 17, 2009

16,000 year-old concrete

photo by chris bobko
Engineer's at MIT have discovered the cause behind concrete to deform and weaken over time due to stress. called concrete creep, a rearrangement of structure at the nano-scale, professor Franz-Jozef Ulm's paper suggests that, if slowed by 2.6%, the result would increase the effective lifespan of concrete up to 16,000 years. Although I understand BLDGBLG's hesitation at a material synonnomous with parking structures being able to last for 16,000 years, there may be practical uses for this. Aside from the ecological benefit of only producing the concrete once, extended-use infrastrcutre such as bridges and foundations would require less maintanence and replacement over the material life-cycle. Also, by micro-engineering the material, a complete re-imagining of construction methods with the material is possible. Working at a nano-scale it becomes possible to engineer into the concrete certain nano-structures or formulas that would allow for easy assembly/disassembly and manipulation. If the material does indeed have such durability, the ability to re-engineer that actual piece of concrete, whether to repair or reform, could yield infinite solutions. Ironically, the material that defined 'modularity' could be re-engineered to be modular at a molecular level. Could actual 'curable' concrete be created where the atomic structure is re-energized and given a molecular tune-up? A structural member is tested and the calculations reveal it's structure has decomposed to an unsafe level. A specific electrical current is applied to the material and particles are jostled back into place and the original strength is again realized.

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