An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Rice University scientists have developed micron-sized calcium silicate spheres that could lead to stronger and greener concrete, the world’s most-used synthetic material. The researchers formed the spheres in a solution around nanoscale seeds of a common detergent-like surfactant. The spheres can be prompted to self-assemble into solids that are stronger, harder, more elastic and more durable than ubiquitous Portland cement. He said the spheres are suitable for bone-tissue engineering, insulation, ceramic and composite applications as well as cement. The research appears in the American Chemical Society journal Langmuir.
In tests, the researchers used two common surfactants to make spheres and compressed their products into pellets for testing. They learned that DTAB-based pellets compacted best and were tougher, with a higher elastic modulus, than either CTAB pellets or common cement. They also showed high electrical resistance. [Rice materials scientist Rouzbeh Shahsavari] said the size and shape of particles in general have a significant effect on the mechanical properties and durability of bulk materials like concrete. He said increasing the strength of cement allows manufacturers to use less concrete, decreasing not only weight but also the energy required to make it and the carbon emissions associated with cement’s manufacture. Because spheres pack more efficiently than the ragged particles found in common cement, the resulting material will be more resistant to damaging ions from water and other contaminants and should require less maintenance and less-frequent replacement.
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