Concrete is the preferred material whenever you talk about construction. It is cheap, versatile, durable, and quite strong. Romans made use of it for building structures that have survived to this date. It was so crucial that people have invested hundreds of years in an attempt to recreate the recipe. However, concrete has one huge weakness; fire.
But worry not, because new research might be able to make concrete fire-proof. Concrete when subjected to extremely high temperature, might explode. These explosions can have very dire consequences when a fire breaks out near a structure made from concrete. The actual process of how the concrete blows up is something that has been eluding the scientists.
New research is probing into this very process by recreating the explosions in a lab. French and Swiss scientists have developed high-performance concrete and heated it to a high temperature. Using a standard camera and neutron tomography, the team of scientists then filmed the concrete. Using the apparatus, they were able to obtain a three-dimensional image of the exploding concrete.
The researchers already knew that the explosions take place because the water vapors trapped inside the concrete evaporate. The water expands when it heats up, and subsequently, the pressure goes up to a point where the structure simply cannot take it anymore and shatters. This study, however, helped the scientists to pin down the exact process.
Once the concrete is heated, the cement inside concrete becomes dehydrated and ends up losing some of the water content as vapor. This water vapor then begins to move away from the source of the heat but becomes trapped inside the concrete structure.
The conventional high-performance concrete is very non-porous. This means that the water vapor eventually runs out of places where it can expand. Once this happens, the pressure begins to climb, and the explosion is only a matter of time then.
Using this knowledge, the researchers were able to come up with a collection of additives that could be used for preventing these explosions from happening thus making the concrete safe during high temperatures. This means that firefighters won’t have to worry about structures exploding during a fire in the future!