With different innovations, scientists have come up with many stronger forms of concrete. But the best and basic way to enhance the strength of concrete is to protect it from moisture and salt.
Now researchers at Washington State University have developed a new surface sealant that makes existing concrete 75 percent more water-repellent. The new sealant also showed 44% improvement in reducing salt damage.
“We focused on one of the main culprits that compromises the integrity and durability of concrete, which is moisture,” said Xianming Shi, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering who led the work. “If you can keep concrete dry, the vast majority of durability problems would go away.”
Moisture and salt-induced damage represent a serious problem faced by several buildings. Worldwide transportation structures like roads or bridges and the building sector require hundreds of billions of dollars a year as repair and maintenance costs.
“Concrete, even though it seems like solid rock, is basically a sponge when you look at it under a microscope,” Shi said. “It’s a highly porous, non-homogenous composite material.”
To solve this issue, researchers added nanomaterials graphene oxide and montmorillonite nanoclay to a commercial siliconate-based concrete sealant. These added nanomaterials helped in densifying the microstructure of the concrete. So the concrete produced is more difficult for liquid water to penetrate. Not only that, but nanomaterials also sheltered the concrete from the deicing salts.