• The University is seeking to patent the product, which it believes will be in high demand for the construction of critical infrastructure like government buildings, bridges, defence facilities and embassies. (SBS)
A South Australian scientist has developed a super-strength 'plastic concrete' that he believes could prove a breakthrough in fighting terrorism.
By
Karen Ashford

19 Aug 2014 - 1:47 PM  UPDATED 19 Aug 2014 - 3:56 PM

Plastic concrete may sound incongruous, but one Adelaide scientist thinks he has developed a formula that could prove a breakthrough in the fight against terrorism.

Adelaide University researcher Chengqing Wu has created an ultra-high-performance concrete with cutting edge nano-technology and steel fibres to produce a building material that is strong yet relatively flexible.

Conventionally built bridges and buildings are brittle in the face of a blast, shattering and collapsing. By contrast, UHPC has ten times more tensile strength and far greater ductility, meaning the concrete acts a little like a plastic and has very high energy absorption capacity. 

"The market will not be a huge market but it will be a significant market and if South Australia could actually act on that, that’ll be fantastic for us."  

Mr Wu said structures made from UPHC may crack, but don’t shatter and resist collapse.

"A conventional reinforced concrete column fails with less than 10 kilograms explosive loading, while the new ultra high performance concrete column survived a 50 kilogram explosive loading," he said.

The University is seeking to patent the product, which it believes will be in high demand for the construction of critical infrastructure like government buildings, bridges, defence facilities and embassies.

The high cost of nano-materials meant the product is about five times more expensive than standard concrete, but Mr Wu says he’s collaborating with China in a bid to bring costs down, making it cost effective for wider application, including earthquake zones.

Counter Terrorism consultant John Bruni of SAGE International said even with the price premium, UPHC would be keenly sought around the globe by those keen to thwart potential terror attacks.

"This kind of concrete will actually allow us to be seen to be more resilient because we don’t want our police headquarters knocked out by terrorist attack," he said.

"We don’t want our government infrastructure knocked out by terrorist attack….anything that turns an ordinary building material into a super building material with higher compression strength will come at cost.

"It's not going to be a cheaper thing to have, so yes, there is economic benefit for us.

"The market will not be a huge market but it will be a significant market and if South Australia could actually act on that, that’ll be fantastic for us."