An academic at Newcastle’s Northumbria University is developing a new type of concrete that could massively reduce deaths and injuries in the event of a terrorist attack.

Dr Alan Richardson – in collaboration with colleagues at universities in Canada and India – is working on an innovative material that uses 3D steel fibre reinforcement rather than the traditional 2D variety.

Tests have shown that this concrete is 78% better at holding together under shock waves, such as those that would be caused by a bomb blast.

The material would fragment less if an explosion occurred, meaning fewer deaths and injuries from flying debris and particles.

The concrete would also be better at withstanding earthquakes and would prove useful in structures such as sea defences, bridges and motorway barriers.

Due to the material’s increased strength, less concrete would be needed when building structures, so smaller, more visually pleasing buildings could be created.

It would also be better for the environment as less energy and fewer of the earth’s resources would be used when making the concrete.

Dr Richardson, an associate professor of civil engineering at Northumbria University, said, “We have seen that during terrorist attacks, such as the Madrid bombings in 2004, many of the injuries that occurred were due to flying concrete shrapnel.”

“This is because the 2D steel fibres currently used in concrete production are randomly spread throughout the mix and may not be particularly effective at holding the concrete together in the event of an explosion.”

“We have been researching the use of 3D steel fibres – about the same size as the 2D variety but shaped in a loop then angled at 90 degrees.”

“When added to the concrete, we have found they increase the energy absorption of the material, resulting in a much tougher product.”

“This has huge potential for a wide variety of applications. What we hope to do now is work with industry to develop this further.”

Dr Richardson is working with Professor Rishi Gupta of the University of Victoria, Canada, and Professor Urmil Dave, of Ahmedabad University, India. The 3D fibres are being produced in India then tested in the University of Northumbria’s state-of-the-art facilities.

Dr Richardson said, “Between the three universities, we have the perfect mix of experience, technology and enthusiasm to make this product a reality.”                     

“What we now need is a partner in industry to take this research to the next stage.”

Dr Richardson has also been involved in research into ‘self-healing concrete’, which uses natural bacteria to seal cracks.

You can learn more about Dr Richardson’s research by going to  

(Featured image courtesy of Anthony Easton, from Flickr Creative Commons)

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