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Cement converted into an electrical conductor

July 29, 2013 — Researchers at the University of Alicante have developed a cementitious material incorporating carbon nanofibers in its composition, turning cement into an excellent conductor of electricity capable of performing functions beyond its usual structural function.

This new technology, developed and patented by the UA Civil Engineering Department's Research Group in Multifunctional Concrete Conductors, allows, among other functions, the material to heat up due to the passage of current.

"The technology allows buildings' premises to heat or prevents the formation of ice on infrastructure, such as highways, railways, roads, airstrips and other elements," lecturer Pedro Garcés, head of research, explains.

"To obtain a cementitious compound effective as the heating element, this should have a low resistivity. This is not achieved in conventional concrete because they are poor conductors of electricity. However, this can be achieved by the addition of conductive materials such as, for example, carbonaceous materials," Pedro Garcés adds.

In this way, a new conductive compound with much more interesting properties is achieved since it keeps the structural properties of concrete and does not compromise the durability of the structures themselves.

This new product has a great versatility, since any existing structure or surface can be coated with it, keeping thermal control in it by applying continuous electric current.

At present, the research group has developed trials to test the technology in plasters with carbonaceous materials. These tests have given very satisfactory results, obtaining optimal properties of heating the material with minimum energy consumption.

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