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Crystalline Carbon

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Smart Concrete

Smart Concrete

Credit: Phillip Capper
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/flissphil/6985750/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Concrete is strong, but it isn’t unbreakable. Aging, weathering, and too much stress can cause concrete to crack and break. Then disasters like collapsed bridges can occur.

Why It Matters

  • The human eye can detect weaknesses in concrete only after a crack has already occurred. By then, costly repairs may be needed. Concrete inspectors also can’t keep up with the number of bridges and other concrete structures they need to inspect.
  • What if there was a way to monitor the strength of concrete before it actually cracked. Better yet, what if the concrete could monitor itself? It sounds impossible, but a scientist named Dr. Deborah Chung has used her expert knowledge of materials to create concrete that can do just that.
  • Watch this video to learn more: http://www.nbclearn.com/science-of-innovation/cuecard/62976
  • Credit: stephen jones
    Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevepj2009/5523039369
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Natural occurrences such as earthquakes create cracks in concrete structures and surfaces [Figure2]


Can You Apply It?

At the links below, learn more about smart concrete and its developer Dr. Deborah Chung. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What is concrete? Besides bridges, what else is concrete used for?
  2. What material did Dr. Chung add to concrete? What property does this material have?
  3. How does the material affect concrete?
  4. How does the material make concrete a sensor?
  5. What is electric resistance? Dr. Chung tested smart concrete in her lab by compressing it. As smart concrete is compressed, what happens to its electric resistance?
  6. Besides monitoring its own weakness, what are some other possible applications of smart concrete?
  7. Why is Dr. Chung a role model for women in science?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Phillip Capper; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/flissphil/6985750/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: stephen jones; Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevepj2009/5523039369; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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