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    A Cracking Solution: Self-Healing Concrete, Coming All The Way from Rhode Island!

    Each year we see more and more advances in concrete science, from the plain cosmetic to the more utilitarian. But one advance that has really piqued or interest of late is a significant advance into self-healing concrete. Yes, it may sound like something straight out of the X-Men, but please — hear us out!

    Michelle Pelletier, a graduate student from the University of Rhode Island, has pioneered a method of creating concrete that self-heals, recovering some of its strength after being put under extreme stress. This works by embedding a micro-encapsulated sodium silicate healing agent directly into the concrete matrix. When the concrete is put under stress, the micro-capsules rupture and release the healing agent into any cracks that form, thereby prolonging the life of the material. The healing agent chemically reacts with the calcium hydroxide naturally present in the concrete mixture to form a gel-like material, which heals cracks and blocks pores in the concrete.

    Tests showed that Pelletier’s formula recovered about 26% of the concrete’s original strength, compared to about 10% for other similar proposals. This makes it more likely to be financially viable for commercial production: it could serve to significantly reduce repair costs and extend the life of concrete structures.

    And this is not all – the self-healing concrete has potential additional advantages, which are also being researched. For a start, it could reduce the level of Carbon Dioxide emissions that result from concrete production (the concrete industry is responsible for around 10% of all Carbon Dioxide emissions in the USA). Pelletier is also researching whether her new concrete design could reduce corrosion of the steel reinforcement bars you commonly find in concrete structures.

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