A 10-minute drive from the prehistoric site of Stonehenge, a gym is propelling the construction industry into the future with a first of its kind graphene-enforced concrete floor.
Developed by the University of Manchester and alumni-led construction firm Nationwide Engineering, a product dubbed Concretene removes 30% of the material and all the steel reinforcement required in concrete by introducing tiny amounts of graphene.
The reduction in material could significantly cut the industry’s environmental impact since concrete alone produces around 8% of global carbon emissions.
Southern Quarter gym in Amesbury’s Solstice Park will open this summer with the world’s first floor slab laid using Concretene.
Isolated at the University of Manchester in 2004, graphene is a very strong, flexible material made of a single layer of carbon atoms.
When mixed with liquid concrete, graphene acts as a mechanical support and as a catalyst surface for a process called hydration, which leads to better bonding at a microscopic scale as the concrete sets. This gives the finished product improved strength, durability and corrosion resistance.
Because Concretene can be used just like standard concrete, it requires no new equipment or training to use.
Nationwide Engineering estimates that it could give customers savings of between 10-20% compared to standard RC30 concrete, with the additional cost for Concretene offset by the reduction of material needed.
Craig Dawson, application manager at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, said: “We have produced a graphene-based additive mixture that is non-disruptive at the point of use. That means we can dose our additive directly at the batching plant where the concrete is being produced as part of their existing system, so there’s no change to production or to the construction guys laying the floor.
“We have been able to do this via thorough investigation – alongside our university colleagues from the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering – of the materials we are using and we can tailor this approach to use any supplier’s graphene, so we are not beholden to a single supplier.
“This makes Concretene a more viable proposition as there is increased security of supply.”
The University of Manchester’s research into graphene has shown that the material has a very wide range of potential uses, including in treating PTSD, creating brain implants to combat disorders such as epilepsy and designing more durable running shoes.