Bomb-Resistant Concrete Walls That Could Save Lives

Bomb blasts cause untold levels of damage, injury and death every year globally. And although there are limitations to what can be done to stop the full force of a bomb blast, a recent discovery made at Northumbria University has the potential to save the lives of civilians and the armed forces all around the world - and it all comes down to the shape of the fibres used in fibre-reinforced concrete.

Research conducted by the UK Concrete Society's chairman and University Associate Professor, Dr Alan Richardson, was centred around terrorist attacks on buildings where the shock waves produced by the blast caused concrete to be forcefully ejected into the surrounding area. For example, in Madrid, 60 to 70 percent of the injuries caused by the infamous bombings were reportedly caused by flying concrete and not the actual blasts themselves.

Video courtesy of Forces Network.

The Role Of 3D Fibres

As part of Dr Richardson's research, he investigated the possibility of reinforcing concrete walls with 3D fibres, as opposed to the 2D fibres that are used traditionally to strengthen concrete. Initial testing suggests that this subtle, yet important design change could dramatically cut the number of casualties caused by bomb blasts in built-up areas.

Put simply, 3D fibres reduce the amount of shrapnel that fills the air when concrete is blasted. According to results from the most recent tests, the new 3D fibre concrete outperforms the 2D fibre equivalent in every single aspect assessed.

What Does This Mean?

As well as reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused every year by bomb attacks, this new innovation could also limit the level of damage caused to other buildings within the blast radius, making the restructuring and clean-up operation easier, faster and more cost-effective.  It is also thought that the new concrete could allow the military to reduce the size of its defence structures, whilst making for more efficient bomb protection.

FibresImage courtesy of Forces Network.

How It Could Be Used

Dr Richardson feels that the Ministry of Defence could use the new material for constructing security barriers which act as protection for roads and buildings, for both civilians and the armed forces. He is currently working in partnership with an Indian and Canadian firm to make the production of this new form of concrete more cost-effective. At the same time, he is looking for modest investments to continue his ground-breaking research and tests at Northumbria University.

It's intriguing to think that possibly one of the most effective defences against terrorist blasts in the future, may well be an engineering innovation rather than a militaristic one.