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"A revolution in the construction industry is coming." A scientist from Szczecin is working on a vaccine for concrete 15.02.2023 11:32

How to prevent concrete from cracking? The hope for the construction industry will be the research of Adam Zieliński, PhD at the West Pomeranian University of Technology, on the technology of intelligent internal care of cement composites. Zieliński received one and a half million zlotys from the National Centre for Research and Development to develop his concept.

Project by Dr. Zieliński under the Lider program took fifth place out of 303 submitted applications and first place among technical universities.

Adam Zieliński, PhD from the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, together with the research team, will work on a pioneering technology of intelligent internal care of low-shrink cement composites with a reduced carbon footprint.

It currently looks like this. When building a house, we lay a concrete mix as a floor in our future living room. Cement sets, concrete hardens, and if it is poorly maintained or lacks reinforcement, it cracks. Reducing the phenomenon of shrinkage leads to the development of stresses. The so-called forced stresses, which, when the tensile strength of the concrete is exceeded, cause numerous scratches, cracks and, consequently, loss of durability, aesthetics, and the floor finish - explains Dr. Adam Zieliński.

To avoid such a situation in the construction industry, preventive methods have been used for years, e.g., spraying concrete with water.

Sprinkling is cheap, simple, but unfortunately temporary. Imagine a puddle on the ground that is formed when it rains. After the rain stops, the puddle dries up and becomes mud. The moisture content of the mud decreases due to the diffusion of water vapor and its equalization with the ambient humidity. What follows? The mud cracks. The same happens with our floor, if, for example, we stop watering for the weekend and the concrete does not have enough strength yet. This traditional method requires an appointed employee who constantly monitors the condition of the concrete - explains Dr. Adam Zieliński.

Project by Dr. Adam Zieliński is the result of engineering practice and theory. In order for the concrete not to crack, scientists will develop a technology and a product - a special vaccine.

First, we will check at what point traditional floor concrete cracks, and what physical and chemical parameters accompany this phenomenon. Our floor will be digitally mapped and numerically modeled. Knowing how our material behaves over time and the influence of environmental conditions, we will design care complexes - vaccines that will ensure an individual and safe course of shrinkage deformations throughout the stage of its maturation. The optimal amount of the vaccine applied already at the stage of concrete mixing will ensure unchanged consistency and strength, and at the same time will reduce shrinkage and carbon footprint while maintaining a competitive price - explains Zieliński.

The research team of Dr. Zieliński will develop several types of vaccines, because one product cannot be used for all types of concrete. The project will cover the latest trends in concrete technology, i.e., the issue of shrinkage of concrete mixes in 3D printing technology and the control of the development of shrinkage deformations in new-generation composites with sulphate and high-belite binders.

Concrete must be properly cared for. For each type of concrete, a special care complex will be designed, which may include completely different materials. Our vaccines will fulfill the same task, i.e., minimize the susceptibility to cracking of concrete throughout its maturation stage, says Zieliński.

In order for the technology developed by Zieliński to go into production, a prototype must be created and potential investors interested in commercialization.

A revolution on the construction market is coming. We have seven letters of intent from Polish and foreign companies. These are large enterprises with great experience. Finally, our care complex may appear in DIY stores. That's the plan. This will be a preventive measure for every responsible builder, says Dr. Adam Zieliński.

As part of the project, the laboratory of shrinkage deformation and susceptibility to cracking will be expanded, in cooperation with, among others, with the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of ZUT and the Civil and Environmental Engineering Faculty of Auburn University (USA). The research will be carried out by scientists from the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the ZUT, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics of the ZUT, the Faculty of Materials Science and Ceramics of the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow and the company ASTRA Technology of Concrete. The time to develop the technology is 3 years.

Photo:Aurelia Kołodziej/ZUT

Photo: Aurelia Kołodziej/ZUT