Published On: Thu, Jun 15th, 2017

Recycled Rubber Tyre Makes Stronger Concrete

Recycled-rubber roads are not new; asphalt roads that incorporate rubber “crumbs” from shredded tires exist in the US, Germany, Spain, Brazil, and China. But using the polymer fibers from tyres has the unique benefit of potentially improving the resilience of concrete and extending its lifespan.

University of British Columbia (UBC) engineers have developed a more resilient type of concrete using recycled tyres that could be used for concrete structures like buildings, roads, dams, and bridges while reducing landfill waste.

The researchers experimented with different proportions of recycled tyre fibers and other materials used in concrete – cement, sand, and water – before finding the ideal mix, which includes 0.35 per cent tyres fibers, according to researcher Obinna Onuaguluchi, a postdoctoral fellow in civil engineering at UBC.

Their lab tests showed that fibre-reinforced concrete reduces crack formation by more than 90 percent compared to regular concrete. Concrete structures tend to develop cracks over time, but the polymer fibres are bridging the cracks as they form, helping protect the structure and making it last longer.

UBC civil engineering professor Nemkumar Banthia, also a scientific director of UBC-hosted Canada-India Research Center of Excellence (IC-IMPACTS), a center that develops research collaborations between Canada and India who supervised the work, said that the environmental and industrial impact of the research is crucial. Up to three billion tyres are produced around the world every year, generating close to three billion kilograms of fibre when recycled.

Most scrap tyres are destined for landfill. Adding the fiber to concrete could shrink the tire industry’s carbon footprint and also reduce the construction industry’s emissions since cement is a major source of greenhouse gases.

Banthia’s team is tracking its performance using sensors embedded in the new concrete used to resurface the steps in front of the McMillan building on UBCs campus in May. So far, the results support laboratory testing that showed it can significantly reduce cracking.  But it is looking at the development of strain, cracking and other factors.

Almost six billion cubic meters of concrete is used every year. This fiber can be in every cubic meter of that concrete.

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