Now, scientists are claiming that a new type of fiber-reinforced concrete could soon serve as a lighter and greener alternative.
The experimental building material was developed by Amir Hajiesmaeili, a PhD student working in the Structural Maintenance and Safety Laboratory of Switzerland's EPFL research institute.
In place of the usual steel fibers, it incorporates fibers made of a very stiff type of polyethylene. These not only provide the same amount of structural support as steel fibers, but they also adhere very well to the cement. As a result, approximately half as much cement is required, with readily-available limestone making up the difference.
This is quite noteworthy, as the production of traditional Portland cement is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, Hajiesmaeili claims that the manufacturing of his ultra high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete (UHPFRC) releases 60 to 70 percent less CO2 than that of regular steel-fiber equivalents. And as an added bonus, the material is also reportedly 10 percent lighter.