Researchers at the University of British Columbia have developed a new type of concrete that they believe will help structures stay standing whenever an earthquake strikes. The researchers are so confident in their unique fiber-reinforced mix that they are applying it to an elementary school in Vancouver as part of what they are calling a “seismic retrofit.”
The substance is called Eco-friendly Ductile Cementitious Composite (EDCC), and it's engineered to be malleable, ductile, and strong. It’s applied by spraying a 10-mm layer onto building walls, and in tests, the material has helped structures withstand the equivalent of a 9.1 earthquake -- similar to the one that hit Japan in 2011.
A standard wall crumbles in seconds when subjected to 65% of a 9.0 earthquake. With a single side of the wall sprayed with EDCC, the structure can take nearly 200% of the Japan earthquake. It flexes, but it doesn’t collapse.
The concoction is a mix of polymer fibers, fly ash, and other industrial additives. According to the researchers, they replaced nearly 70 percent of the cement with fly ash, a natural byproduct of the coal combustion process and a product similar to volcanic ash. The switch makes EDCC much more environmentally friendly since cement production typically generates a significant amount of greenhouse gases.
The material could soon be used to strengthen homes and other buildings. The team is targeting another school in India that is in a seismic hotbed, but EDCC could also be used to shore up pipelines, streets, and other industrial facilities around the world.