Scientists Are Testing New Concrete Sensors to Accelerate Construction Time

Purdue University engineers have developed sensors that can speed up the construction work timeline safely by determining concrete strength directly onsite in real-time.

Image Source: Purdue University

The timeframe to construct a building depends mostly on the determination process of whether the concrete of each floor is strong enough to take on new loads.

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It is required to conduct a test on concrete mix designs before implementing it on a construction project. Because once those mixes have been vetted for use, the mixed design cannot be altered without additional offsite testing.

The technology designed by Purdue University will remove the need for extensive offsite testing by allowing construction contractors to verify the concrete’s maturity status onsite.

Luna Lu, the professor of Purdue’s American Concrete Pavement Association said that “Our sensors could help make better data-driven decisions to determine the construction schedule and improve the quality of concrete construction.” 

The Purdue University team is also working with F.A. Wilhelm Construction Co. Inc. to test and compare the technology with traditional commercial sensors installed into the floor.

Luna Lu also said that “We’re trying to work with contractors to find out how much saving we can do for them in terms of time, cost, and the number of people needed at a site, which reduces risk and improves construction safety.”

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Since the last decade, general contractors have been using traditional sensors to estimate concrete strength and maturity. But before using that concrete mix onsite it has to be processed a month-long testing procedure in the lab. A line graph is generated to note the strength of the concrete mix design based on the different temperature conditions. This line graph is called the Maturity Curve, which is used by workers to find the best condition of the concrete mix to use on the construction site.

The sensors developed by Purdue University lab will measure concrete strength directly from the floor deck in real-time, and it will eliminate the need of generating a maturity curve completely. A video about the sensor testing is presented below –

Ryan Decker, quality assurance manager of Wilhelm construction said that “These new sensors are more of a ‘plug and play. We could make judgment calls on the fly.”

The sensors would remain in the concrete just like the commercial sensors and provide a direct measurement of strength by using electricity to send an acoustic wave through the concrete.

Further Luna Lu said that “A wave propagating through concrete can tell us a lot of information. We can find out not only how strong the concrete is, but also detailed information about the concrete’s microstructure.”

Twelve sensors have been installed into various sections of the Purdue University’s five-story Engineering and Polytechnic Gateway Complex’s third floor so that the teams can best understand how well they work compared to commercial sensors that is been used on the site.

The lab of Purdue University has validated the technology and is now developing a system that contractors could use to remotely receive the concrete’s strength information. This sensor technology has a patent filed through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.

Source: Puredue University

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