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First Coating to Heal Concrete Emerges

Thursday, February 28, 2013

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A team of Korean scientists say they have developed the world’s first self-healing protective coating for cracks in concrete.

Sunlight-Induced Self-Healing of a Microcapsule-Type Protective Coating,” published Feb. 1 in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, describes the groundbreaking work by Chan-Moon Chung and colleagues at Yonsei University and Korea Conformity Laboratory in Korea.

Keeping Tiny Cracks Tiny

Researchers say the material is inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and holds the ability to self-repair damage to the world’s most widely used building material.

cracking exterior concrete walls
Tim1965 / Wikimedia Commons

The new coating aims to repair superficial cracks before they become more serious.

The idea is to prevent the spread of tiny cracks in concrete roads, bridges and other structures—an elusive goal that the scientists say “has been a major technological challenge.”

“Cracks allow water, salt used for deicing, and air to enter the concrete,” the American Chemical Society reports in a release about the project. “During winter weather, water in the cracks freezes, expands and the cracks get bigger, with road salt speeding concrete’s deterioration.”

A First for Concrete

A number of self-healing anticorrosive coatings for metal substrates are in development; NEI Corp. and a group of Dutch researchers have both unveiled such research over the last year.

However, “there have been no reports on self-healing protective coating for concrete,” says the Korean team.

The research was supported by Korean government science agencies and the National Research Foundation of Korea.

How it Works

The spray-applied, hydrophobic coating contains microcapsules loaded with a urea-formaldehyde polymer material that seals cracks. The act of cracking actually ruptures the microcapsules, releasing the healing agent, the journal says.

Self-Healing Concrete graphic

The coating is spray-applied to concrete surfaces. When a crack occurs in the substrate, the event ruptures the coatings's microcapsules, which release a healing agent that is solidified by sunlight.

Sunlight shining on the concrete activates and solidifies the sealant. Optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) confirmed the release and the filling response of the healing agent when applied to the surface of cellulose fiber-reinforced cement board or mortar.

“Our self-healing coating is the first example of capsule-type photo-induced self-healing system, and offers the advantages of catalyst-free, environment-friendly, inexpensive, practical healing,” the researchers’ report says.


Tagged categories: Concrete coatings and treatments; Concrete masonry units (CMU); Concrete repair; Research

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