Dr. Klaus-Alexander Rieder and Dr. Kumar Ranganathan of Grace Construction Products are the recipients of the 2014 W.R. Grace Award for Technical Excellence (GATE) for their development of STRUX, a series of novel synthetic macro fibers for reinforcing concrete.
Introduced by the Grace Research Council in 2007, GATE recognizes employees for technical achievement of the highest caliber that has resulted in the most significant commercial, societal and industrial impact. The winning team or individual receives a $10,000 award, which will be presented by Grace Chairman and CEO Fred Festa.
The technology has significant societal impact, extending the service life of structures and also lowering installation costs. To date, STRUX has contributed more than $100 million in sales for Grace.
The objective was to create plastic fibers to selectively replace steel reinforcement in concrete. The world’s most widely used construction material, concrete requires steel reinforcement in structures such as bridges or buildings. This is not only expensive and labor-intensive, but also susceptible to corrosion.
The result of Rieder’s work was the prototype of STRUX, a product that uses polyolefin fibers to replace steel concrete reinforcement in many applications. STRUX provides the same level of concrete strength, is easy to mix, and is more cost-effective than steel or other rival technologies. Because traditional fibers easily tangle and form lumps, he designed bendable flat fibers which are more resistant to entanglement. Later, when the market demanded even higher reinforcement power, he created another distinctive fiber with a unique three-dimensional shape, which further increased the bond between the fiber and the concrete.
Because of the fibers’ unique design, there were engineering challenges to overcome in the manufacturing process. Ranganathan, a senior R&D engineer with GCP in Cambridge, Massachusetts, defined the manufacturing parameters needed to produce the three-dimensional, bi-tapered fibers on a commercial scale and designed special steel rollers to make them.
Ranganathan and Rieder, who is now a global technical manager based in Lügde, Germany, are co-inventors on numerous patents granted to Grace related to reinforcing fibers sold under the STRUX trade name, their use in concrete and the manufacturing process.