Cement That 'Feels' Is In The Works

Construction companies understand the value of material integrity, making sure that the materials they use are of the highest quality. To address a long-standing issue in monitoring material strength, a researcher is developing a new kind of cement that can detect damage and stress.
Cumaraswamy Vipulanandan, a researcher from the University of Houston, is in the process of creating “smart” cement, which can sense any stress or indication of wear and tear. This is possible through piezo-resistive material mixed in with the cement. Upon application, the piezo-resistive material embedded in the cement can send signals to a data logging system that can alert concerned personnel for any sign of degradation.

Although the industry has already been using sensors to improve construction processes, this is the first of its kind to use the concept of piezoelectricity for cements. The technology would allow owners and operating staff to monitor the strength of their buildings without the need to do preventive maintenance. The novel concept could potentially save companies millions of dollars on unnecessary inspections.

This technology can be very useful in sensitive or hazardous situations such as oil pipelines, where the need to ensure leak-free installations is a must. As soon as an indication of cracks or material weakness pops up, the piezo-resistive materials embedded in the cement structure can send a warning to operating personnel so that appropriate action can be taken.

The concept of piezoelectricity uses the natural electric characteristic of materials in the face of mechanical stress. Some of the well-known materials used in this technology include silicon and metals.