The new composite material, which is more than twice as strong and four times more water resistant than existing concretes, can be used directly by the construction industry on building sites. All of the concrete samples tested are according to British and European standards for construction.
Crucially, the new graphene-reinforced concentre material also drastically reduced the carbon footprint of conventional concrete production methods, making it more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
“This new composite material is an absolute game-changer in terms of reinforcing traditional concrete to meets these needs. Not only is it stronger and more durable, but it is also more resistant to water, making it uniquely suitable for construction in areas which require maintenance work and are difficult to be accessed .
“Yet perhaps more importantly, by including graphene we can reduce the amount of materials required to make concrete by around 50 per cent – leading to a significant reduction of 446kg/tonne of the carbon emissions.
“This unprecedented range of functionalities and properties uncovered are an important step in encouraging a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly construction industry worldwide.”
Previous work on using nanotechnology has concentrated on modifying existing components of cement, one of the main elements of concrete production.
In the innovative new study, the research team has created a new technique that centres on suspending atomically thin graphene in water with high yield and no defects, low cost and compatible with modern, large scale manufacturing requirements.
There is a constant drive for development of ultrahigh performance multifunctional construction materials by the modern engineering technologies. These materials have to exhibit enhanced durability and mechanical performance, and have to incorporate functionalities that satisfy multiple uses in order to be suitable for future emerging structural applications. There is a wide consensus in the research community that concrete, the most used construction material worldwide, has to be engineered at the nanoscale, where its chemical and physiomechanical properties can be truly enhanced. Here, an innovative multifunctional nanoengineered concrete showing an unprecedented range of enhanced properties when compared to standard concrete, is reported. These include an increase of up to 146% in the compressive and 79.5% in the flexural strength, whilst at the same time an enhanced electrical and thermal performance is found. A surprising decrease in water permeability by nearly 400% compared to normal concrete makes this novel composite material ideally suitable for constructions in areas subject to flooding. The unprecedented gamut of functionalities that are reported in this paper are produced by the addition of water‐stabilized graphene dispersions, an advancement in the emerging field of nanoengineered concrete which can be readily applied in a more sustainable construction industry.