Grad Student Designs Self-Healing Concrete
What if the solution to potholes was simply using concrete that fixed itself?
That’s the idea behind University of Rhode Island grad student Michelle Pelletier’s concrete concoction. By mixing a microencapsulated sodium silicate agent into normal concrete, Pelletier created a road material that can regain 26% of its original composition after being fractured.
When the concrete tears or breaks, the sodium silicate capsules break as well, releasing a catalyst that mixes with the normal concrete component of calcium hydroxide. This forms a calcium-silica-hydrate that fills in the cracks, strengthening the material.
Pelletier achieved the 26% strength regeneration with only a 2% solution of sodium silicate, and she believes a higher concentration could lead to even better results.
Pelletier also says her solution is relatively inexpensive; cost is usually the major downside to “smart” building materials. If the solution could pay for itself by saving municipalities road-repair funds, it could be rapidly adopted by penny-pinching state and local governments.