Concrete is the most common construction material used. It is man-made, prepared by mixing the main ingredient cement with water. Along with these two main components, few aggregates are also used. Let us study concrete in depth and also its variants.
How is concrete formed?
Cement concrete is formed when the mixture of cement and water is placed in forms to dry. The mixture becomes hard like a rock due to the chemical reaction between water and cement. Cement concrete has one unique property. It continues to get stronger with time.
The strength and durability of concrete depend on the properties of the ingredients used, the proportion in which they are mixed and the method followed in curing it.
As a construction material, concrete is popular because of its properties which can be customized by changing the proportions or adding fibers and other components to the mixture.
Advantages of using concrete
There are several benefits of cement concrete which had contributed to its wide usage.
Concrete is economical and has high compressive strength. The effects of weathering and corrosion are also minimal on it.
Concrete has unlimited applications along with reinforcements. Concrete is used in constructing walls, roads, foundations, buildings, airfields, bridges, and docks.
Concrete is fire resistant and requires little maintenance. It is durable too.
Another advantageous feature of concrete is that there are different types of it which can be used for various purposes. Let us discuss a few of them here.
As the name suggests, this concrete is light weight. Concrete which has a lower mass per unit volume is called lightweight concrete. The aggregates used in this concrete are lighter in weight. This type of concrete is mainly used in applications where the extra load is not required as, road lining, parapet, etc.
Light weight concrete, in turn, can be of different types depending on the materials used.
Lightweight aggregate concrete – this type of lightweight concrete is manufactured using lightweight aggregates. These can be natural elements like volcanic pumice, industrial byproducts like fly ash, and processed industrial byproducts like a pelletised expanded slab. Natural elements can be thermally treated like clay or slate and added as aggregates too.
Foamed concrete – this is another type of lightweight concrete. It is highly workable and characterized by low density. This type of concrete has good thermal insulation properties. It is self-leveling and self-compacting. Foamed concrete is used in filling voids like unused tanks, pipelines, and sewer systems.
Temperature controlled concrete
Let us discuss another type of concrete now which is fast gaining popularity. The temperature controlled concrete is prepared while controlling the temperature. The temperature is kept under control by using ice, chilled water, and cooled raw materials. By using these cool substances, the initial temperature of the concrete is reduced drastically.
Temperature controlled concrete has its unique advantages like it is highly durable and permeable. The drying shrinkage is lower and so is the thermal stress. The fuel costs are less and it is eco-friendly.
This concrete is used mainly in building bridges and dams.
Concrete can be of various type and with more research in this field, we can expect to develop more variants that would be economical, durable and safe for the environment.