Researchers from the university’s NTU-JTC Industrial Infrastructure Innovation Centre have created ConFlexPave – a concrete with many properties making it more durable than traditional concrete.
“We developed a new type of concrete that can greatly reduce the thickness and weight of precast pavement slabs, hence enabling speedy plug-and-play installation, where new concrete slabs prepared off-site can easily replace worn out ones,” said NTU Professor Chu Jian, Interim Co-Director of the NTU-JTC I³C, in a statement.
ConFlexPave is specifically engineered to have certain types of hard materials mixed with polymer microfibres. The inclusion of these special synthetic fibres, besides allowing the concrete to flex and bend under tension, also enhances skid resistance.
The innovation also allows for the production of slim precast pavement slabs, increasing installation speed. It is anticipated to be used in infrastructural projects, halving the amount of time needed for road works and new pavements while also requiring less maintenance.
The key breakthrough was understanding how the components of the materials interact with one another mechanically on a microscopic level, said Assistant Professor Yang En-Hua from NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering who leads the research at the NTU-JTC I³C.
“With detailed understanding, we can then deliberately select ingredients and engineer the tailoring of components, so our final material can fulfil specific requirements needed for road and pavement applications,” he explained.
“The hard materials give a non-slip surface texture while the microfibres which are thinner than the width of a human hair, distribute the load across the whole slab, resulting in a concrete that is tough as metal and at least twice as strong as conventional concrete under bending,” he added.
Koh Chwee, Director, Technical Services Division of JTC and Co-Director of the NTU-JTC I3C, said that the invention of the ConFlexPave technology will not only enable the construction industry to reduce labour intensive on-site work, enhance workers’ safety and reduce construction time, it also benefits road users by cutting down the inconvenience caused by road resurfacing and construction works.
ConFlexPave has been successfully tested as tablet-sized slabs at NTU laboratories. It will be scaled up for further testing over the next three years in partnership with JTC.