Electricity-conducting cement could make runways, roads ice proof

Researchers at a Spanish university have created a cement that conducts electricity, giving it many new possible applications where surface heating and ice prevention are important. The “cementitious material” was developed at the University of Alicante by incorporating carbon nanofibres in the composition of the cement. Carbon is a conductor of electricity.

Middle-aged man pushing snowblower
One possible application for electricity-conducting cement. Researchers have made a cement that can be heated by the conduction of electricity through carbon nanofibres mixed in the material. They say a layer of the material can be applied to existing surfaces.

The technology, says a statement from the university, allows the cement to heat as electrical current passes through it. This could have important applications in airports, roads and bridges, for example, and in other infrastructure, where the prevention of ice and snow buildup is a concern. The researchers say that the introduction of the carbonaceous conductive compound does not compromise the durability of the structures themselves, which retain the structural properties of concrete.

The new compound, with “much more interesting properties,” is versatile. Any existing structure could be coated with a layer of it. “Thermal control” could be maintained by applying continuous electrical current. Coating parking lots and roadbeds with the electrified cement are just two applications that could have great appeal in northern climes.

The researchers are also conducting trials to test the technology in plaster embedded with the carbonaceous materials. According to the university, the preliminary results are “very satisfactory,” showing that the plaster can be heated with minimum energy consumption. The researchers do not say how hot the material becomes, or whether it could be used for ambient heat in a room.

The development of nanofibre technology has opened other new research areas in concrete. The shortcomings of traditional cement have long been known. Deterioration of cement-based materials in civil infrastructure costs billions of dollars every year. But nanofibre technology holds out much promise for finally making possible a whole range of improvements needed to make cement materials more durable—improvements in strength, elasticity, resistance to shrinkage, decreased permeability (for corrosion resistance in reinforced concrete) and cold resistance.

Researchers at Northwestern University have been studying the use of carbon nanofibres principally for their usefulness in increasing the flexural strength of cement. Early work indicates that including carbon nanotubes in cement can significantly help to prevent cracking.

Microcracks typically form throughout cement when it is subject to load, the researchers say. These microcracks then coalesce to form large “macrocracks.” The carbon nanofibres have been shown to interfere with the coalescing of the microcracks, thus preventing large cracks from developing.

Did you miss this?

Other Popular Stories

  • Toyota Canada top producer for first time in 2015; RAV4 on a roar
  • GE expanding cold-weather jet engine facility in Winnipeg
  • Research Aims to Provide Vehicles with “Nerves”
  • Porter Airlines seeks to extend island airport runway for jets
  • Canada's start-ups need more help to become global players: OCC
  • GO Transit may deploy hydrogen-power rather than electric; consults with Canadian fuel cell technology company that worked on world's first hydrogen-powered train
  • Truckers hopeful about progress on border security, emissions, after Washington summit
  • Inter Pipeline will spend $2.6 billion to transport bitumen to oil sands projects
  • Government investment, weakening dollar, stronger US economy could spell relief for Canada's manufacturers
  • Slower growth, need for new markets challenge Canada's oil producers
  • Aerospace industry poised for growth: report
  • Industry-academic R&D cooperation to boost Ontario's aerospace sector
  • Twenty-kilometre tower would revolutionize space launches
  • Jobs that are at risk of automation — and jobs that are not
  • Overheated bearings, gearboxes among causes of wind turbine fires
  • MRO in space: Inside a routine Maintenance-Repair-and-Overhaul mission with NASA: sealing, lubricating and keeping cool
  • BC sees 100,000 LNG jobs, $1 trillion in revenues
  • CAE announces flight simulator contracts worth $130 million
  • SpaceX launches Immarsat 5 F4: continuing the Elon Musk tradition of innovation with commercial payback
  • Slight drop in April manufacturing sales due to petroleum, aerospace
Scroll to Top