Scientists develop synthetic version synths of natural antifreeze that promises to make concrete more durable

People living in cold areas may already know that winter is not friendly to concrete,media New Atlas reported. However, this may change, thanks to a polymer additive that mimics natural antifreeze. When snow melts into liquid water, penetrates into porous concrete, and then freezes again as the temperature drops, problems with concrete and temperature fluctuations arise. When the water freezes into ice crystals, it expands, putting pressure on the concrete from the inside. During multiple freeze-thaw cycles, this causes large blocks of concrete to eject from the surface of the material.

Scientists develop synthetic version synths of natural antifreeze that promises to make concrete more durable

One way to solve this problem is to introduce tiny bubbles during stirring to make concrete more porous. Once the material hardens, these bubbles create space for the ice crystals, reducing pressure. Unfortunately, such concrete is not as strong as ordinary materials. In addition, its increased porosity allows more potentially harmful water and road salts and other corrosive elements to enter together.

Instead, scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder have set their sights on natural antifreeze produced by plants and animals living in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Led by Associate Professor Will Srubar III, the team set out to replicate the effects of these compounds by combining two existing polymers, polyethylene alcohol and polyethyl glycol.

When these polymer-linked molecules are added to conventional concrete, they reduce the size of the ice crystals formed in the material by 90%. It was found that even after 300 freeze-thaw cycles, treated concrete was well protected against ice, and was stronger, less permeable and more durable than bubble-containing concrete.

Now, it is hoped that a commercial version of the additive will be available within five to 10 years. In the meantime, scientists will further explore its practical and economic feasibility in the real world.

“We’re particularly excited because it represents a departure from more than 70 years of traditional concrete technology,” Srubar said. “In our view, this is a leap in the right direction, opening the door to new admixture technologies. “

The paper on the study was recently published in the journal Cell Reports Science.