Sidewalk, Heal Thyself: New Cement Repairs Cracks in Itself
Cracks in cement sidewalks and walls could someday vanish from modern city life but only if concrete is able to evolve into a self-healing material. Now, a Ph.D. student in Spain has demonstrated how new generations of cement could also act as heat regulators that may boost energy efficiency in cities.
One part of the new cement recipe includes microcapsules which release gluelike epoxy resin to repair any cracks. That extends the life of concrete structures before humans need to worry about repairing or replacing them. (Previously, other researchers have tried using genetically modified microbes to create a bacterial glue, or even carbon nanotubes to make cement crack-proof.)
The second part of the new recipe comes from so-called phase change materials which can absorb or release large amounts of heat based on phase changes, such as changing from a solid to liquid. That innovative addition came from Idurre Kaltzakorta, a chemist at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, based on her recently defended Ph.D. thesis.
Self-healing cement that also stores heat could help create more energy-efficient buildings by regulating their temperature. That seems like a suitable fit for the so-called smart cities of the future, especially in combination with the self-healing capability.
The new work has led to a patent perhaps another step toward a more secure energy future .
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