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The wonder material called concrete
Source : The Hindu Published On : 2011-06-04 City : Kozhi

The Wonder Material Called Concrete

Concrete is a wonder material that has transformed the way we construct buildings. It has given us the flexibility to construct structures of different shapes, forms, sizes, and volume with ease. Basically, concrete is a material composed of Portland cement mixed with strengthening material such as aggregate (gravel, granite, limestone, and sand), fly ash, slag cement, water, and additives, if any. There are many types of concrete mixes depending on the proportion of the aggregate, production procedure, usage and so on. The most popular way of making concrete is using Portland cement and mixing mineral aggregates and water with it.

Concrete solidifies quickly as the cement components hydrate and glues all the added aggregate together. The concrete thus formed has a high compressive strength and is generally used for making pavements, gates, fences, walls, slabs, beams, columns, and so on. External additives and stabilisers are added to the concrete to give it some desired characteristics. In earlier times, concrete was often referred to as liquid stone.

Proportions of concrete ingredients are determined based on the element for which it is used, strength required, desired longevity, and so on.

The interesting part about concrete is that it can attain tremendous strength as far as compression is concerned. However, it is weak under tension. In fact, we consider its tensile strength as almost nothing while designing.

Any structural element will be subjected to compressive as well as tensile stresses. Hence concrete, as a structural member, becomes very fragile if it is not reinforced with some other material, with which it can bond with and also which is superior in resisting tensile stresses.

Thus reinforced cement concrete (RCC) came into existence, in which steel bars are used as the reinforcing material.

Pre-stressed concrete is a type of structural concrete which is compressed using high pressure in those parts which are subjected to extreme tensile forces so that the concrete is not in a state of tension when actually under the working load.

Ready-mixed concrete is manufactured at mixing plants and delivered to the construction site in specially designed vehicles.

The vehicle has a large rotating drum in which the concrete continuously mixes until it is delivered to the site.

The mix specification is first decided by the supplier and the contractor, prior to delivery.

With technological advances, we have newer concretes emerging for specific uses.

Vacuum de-watered concrete, pre-cast concrete, post-tensioned concrete, spun concrete, high-density concrete, water-resistant concrete, fibre-reinforced concrete have all strengthened the structural designers' hand in venturing into challenging vistas.

Research is under way to realise concrete without steel reinforcement. The vision is to develop a versatile concrete that is strong in compressive and tensile environments.

This will be possible by altering the proportions of the concrete ingredients and having newer materials that add the required strength. Now we are witnessing translucent concretes that can transmit light through them, brightening the insides of a building.

Basics crucial

In our eagerness to advance further, we should not forget the basics of concrete manufacture.

We have to be sensitive to the quality of the ingredients used, quality of the water and more than anything our sensitivity in meeting its needs in the early stages of formation.

Yes, we have to take as much care in concrete as we take in raising a human life.

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