Canadian Consulting Engineer

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Conductive concrete heating up

Visitors to the Construct Canada show in Toronto in December warmed their hands on a slab of conductive concrete at the National Research Council (NRC) booth and felt the future in their hands at the ...


Visitors to the Construct Canada show in Toronto in December warmed their hands on a slab of conductive concrete at the National Research Council (NRC) booth and felt the future in their hands at the same time. The NRC’s Institute for Research in Construction (IRC) is steaming ahead with developing the material and is currently setting up licensing agreements with the private sector.

Developed initially as a way of improving cathodic protection in steel reinforcing bars, conductive concrete now appears to have many other promising applications. It is a cement-based composite containing electrically conductive particles–ideally carbon-based ones. When a current is passed through the material it becomes uniformly warm over a temperature range of +/-40 C. IRC’s formulation (the institute has patents in Europe and the U.S.) has managed to find the right balance between high conductivity and mechanical strength which previously eluded researchers. It is also lightweight, with 70% of the density of normal concrete.

The first ready-mix conductive concrete was delivered and poured last year showing it can be used in a bulk format. Likely applications include parking garages, highway bridges, airport runways, etc. as well as for indoor radiant floor heating. IRC is also working with the Electric Power Research Institute investigating the material’s potential for grounding transmission towers and hydro poles. For information, contact Mark Arnott, e-mail mark.arnott@nrc.ca