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By mixing fiber in concrete scientists have created a bendable material that is lightweight, resists cracking, and lasts longer.
The newfangled concrete, already in use in Japan, Korea, Switzerland and Australia, will find its first application in the United States this summer, researchers said this week.
Fiber-reinforced concrete is not new. But this variety, developed at the University of Michigan, is said to be 500 times more resistant to cracking than what your sidewalk is made of. It's also 40 percent lighter.
Concrete is a mix of cement, water and sand or gravel. In bridges and buildings, it is typically reinforced with metal wire or bars.
The new mix contains mostly the same ingredients as regular concrete minus the coarse gravel, explained engineering Professor Victor Li. It looks like regular concrete, but under intense strain it gives instead of breaking because fibers slide within the cement. The fibers behave somewhat like your body's ligaments, holding things together in a flexible manner.
The stuff is called Engineered Cement Composites (ECC).
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will use the ECC to replace part of a bridge that crosses Interstate 94. The slab will eliminate the need for expansion joints, which are moveable steel teeth that separate sections of regular concrete. With the ECC, a longer continuous slab will be possible.