Editorial Feature

How Can Concrete be Nano-Engineered?

Engineered concrete has been a cornerstone of modern construction, providing a robust foundation for our cities and structures, but in the quest for innovation and sustainability, the construction industry has turned to nano-engineering to redefine the capabilities of this ubiquitous material. This article explores nano-engineered concrete, delving into recent studies, limitations, and the potential for a more sustainable future in construction.

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What is Nano-Engineered Concrete?

Engineered concrete has long been admired for its strength and durability, but traditional formulations face challenges as demands for sustainability and performance increase. This is where nano-engineering steps in, offering a pathway to enhance the properties of concrete at the molecular level.

Nano-engineered concrete is an innovative, high-performance construction material that undergoes enhancement with nanomaterials, transcending conventional standards. Beyond merely bolstering strength, nano-engineered concrete transforms traditionally fixed properties, including permeability, weight, and strength, into variables.

How is Concrete Nano-Engineered?

There are several methods and techniques through which concrete is nano-engineered to impart enhanced properties. One of the primary methods involves adding nanoparticles, such as silica fume or titanium dioxide, to the concrete mixture to fill the gaps between larger particles in the cement matrix, reducing porosity and enhancing the material's overall strength. Similarly, incorporating carbon nanotubes or nanofibers into the concrete mix significantly improves tensile strength and ductility since these nanomaterials act as molecular reinforcements, enhancing the concrete's overall structural integrity.

Another method of developing nano-engineered concrete is by applying nano-scale coatings to the surface of concrete structures, enhancing their resistance to environmental factors. For instance, a nano-engineered coating can make concrete more water-resistant or protect it from corrosive substances, extending its lifespan.

Nano-engineering has also paved the way for self-healing concrete, a revolutionary concept where microcapsules containing healing agents are embedded within the concrete. When cracks occur, these capsules rupture, releasing the healing agents that react with the surrounding materials to seal the crack and restore the concrete's integrity.

Recent Studies

Nanoparticle-enhanced Foamed Concrete

In a recent study, researchers delved into the integration of calcium carbonate nanoparticles (CCNPs) into foamed concrete (FC) to enhance its mechanical and durability properties. Seven FC mixes were prepared, varying CCNPs weight fractions from 0% to 6%. The study revealed that the addition of 4% CCNPs yielded optimal improvements, showcasing a 66% increase in compressive strength compared to the control.

Meanwhile, CCNPs enhanced strength characteristics, exceeding 4%, leading to particle clumping and reduced mechanical properties. The research also explored correlations between mechanical properties, and an artificial neural network with k-fold cross-validation successfully predicted compressive strength. The study emphasizes CCNPs as a cost-effective and sustainable option, showcasing potential benefits for both economic and environmental considerations in concrete production.

Superplasticizer in Nano-Concrete

In another 2023 study, researchers conducted a comprehensive investigation into the impact of superplasticizer (SP) on the performance of nano-engineered concrete, specifically ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC) and ultra-high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete (UHPFRC). The study aimed to optimize SP usage by examining its effects on workability, compressive strength, packing density, and water film thickness.

The results revealed a novel phenomenon where SP significantly improved the mechanical properties of UHPC by reducing water film thickness and enhancing packing structure, leading to increased compressive strength. In the case of UHPFRC, SP influenced flowability and altered fiber distribution, impacting strength development. The study emphasized the distinctive role of SP in nano-engineered concrete, emphasizing the need for a tailored approach to SP dosage for optimal performance in terms of both workability and strength.

Sustainability of Nano-Engineered Concrete

Nano-engineering plays a crucial role in achieving environmentally friendly and sustainable concrete solutions. The enhanced durability and resistance to environmental factors in nano-engineered concrete contribute to longer-lasting structures with extended lifespan, reducing the need for frequent repairs or replacements and, in turn, minimizing resource consumption.

Moreover, nano-engineering allows for the incorporation of waste materials, such as industrial by-products or recycled nanoparticles, into concrete formulations, promoting the efficient use of resources and minimizing the environmental impact of waste disposal.

Limitations of Nano-Engineered Concrete

Nano-engineered concrete presents notable advantages but faces key limitations as well. For instance, using nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes and nano-silica raises concerns about potential health and environmental risks due to nanoparticle release during production and disposal. Scaling up production poses challenges in terms of cost, scalability, and integration into existing practices.

Another limitation is achieving uniform dispersion of nanomaterials in the concrete matrix, which is a difficult task, especially in large-scale production. Addressing these limitations through ongoing research, development, and regulatory oversight is essential for the safe and sustainable implementation of nano-engineered concrete in construction projects.

Conclusion

In conclusion, nano-engineered concrete stands at the forefront of construction innovation, reshaping traditional notions of concrete by leveraging nanomaterials to enhance its properties. Recent studies, such as the integration of calcium carbonate nanoparticles and the impact of superplasticizers on ultra-high-performance concrete, showcase the potential for increased strength and optimized performance.

The sustainability aspect is emphasized, as nano-engineering contributes to longer-lasting structures and efficient waste materials use. Despite these advantages, challenges like environmental risks, scalability issues, and achieving uniform dispersion underscore the need for continued research and regulatory oversight for the safe and sustainable integration of nano-engineered concrete in construction projects.

More from AZoBuild: How and Why Do We Recycle Concrete?

References and Further Reading

Mydin, M. A. O., Jagadesh, P., Bahrami, A., Dulaimi, A., Özkılıç, Y. O., Abdullah, M. M. A. B., & Jaya, R. P. (2023). Use of calcium carbonate nanoparticles in production of nano-engineered foamed concrete. journal of materials research and technology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmrt.2023.08.106

Wang, L., Ma, Y., & Li, L. (2023). Uncovering the role of superplasticizer in developing nano-engineered ultra-high-performance concrete. Frontiers in Materials. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmats.2023.1177189

Wang, X., Zheng, Q., Dong, S., Ashour, A., & Han, B. (2020). Interfacial characteristics of nano-engineered concrete composites. Construction and Building Materials. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2020.119803

Li, Z. & Shi. X. (2022) Effects of Nanomaterials on Engineering Performance of a Potassium Methyl Siliconate–Based Sealer for Cementitious Composite. Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering. https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)MT.1943-5533.0004148

Smith, Brett. (2021, April 06). How Can Concrete Properties be Controlled with Nanotechnology?. AZoNano. Retrieved on November 18, 2023 from https://www.azonano.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=5705.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Taha Khan

Written by

Taha Khan

Taha graduated from HITEC University Taxila with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. During his studies, he worked on several research projects related to Mechanics of Materials, Machine Design, Heat and Mass Transfer, and Robotics. After graduating, Taha worked as a Research Executive for 2 years at an IT company (Immentia). He has also worked as a freelance content creator at Lancerhop. In the meantime, Taha did his NEBOSH IGC certification and expanded his career opportunities.  

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