Science Network of Western Australia reports that concrete made using an industrial by-product has shown better fire endurance than traditional concrete when exposed to fires of nearly 1000 degrees Celsius.
The fire-proof nature of this material, a type of concrete called geopolymer concrete, is particularly valuable in tunnels and high-rise buildings, or for structures used to store hazardous materials.
The research of Dr. Prabir Sarker of Curtin University focuses on creating this material using fly-ash, a by-product of coal-fired power plants.
Sarker used 5 inch to 7-inch (125 to 175 mm) thick, steel mesh-reinforced panels of geopolymer or traditional concrete, exposing one side of each panel to a gas furnace fire of up to 960 degrees Celsius for two hours. He found the geopolymer concrete transferred heat faster than ordinary concrete, resulting in less cracking and flaking. Dr Sarker then loaded each post-fire panel to failure, determining the residual load capacity of the geopolymer concrete to be 61 to 71 percent, but just 50 to 53 percent for traditional concrete panels.