Finally a good recycling plan – fibres from used tires may be used to reinforce concrete!

Car tire technology leaped so far in the last couple of decades and now they are grippier, more resilient and provide more comfort than ever before. However, one little piece of the riddle was never solved. It is how to recycle car tires effectively, without damaging environment too much. Now a new research from The University of British Columbia might have found a perfect use for them.

This new kind of concrete could help reusing a large amount of used tires that are now filling landfills. Image credit: GST HBK via Wikimedia

Car tires are made of vulcanized rubber. This process means that rubber cannot be remoulded to make something else. Car tires must be shredded into tiny pieces and then used in a mixture with new rubber or other compounds to make a variety of products, such as paving for sports facilities and playgrounds – it makes for a soft surface. However, we still cannot recycle enough of our waste tires, so scientists are looking for a better use for them.

Now researchers from The University of British Columbia developed a new kind of concrete, which is more resilient and can be used to build buildings, roads, dams and bridges while reducing landfill waste. Its secret ingredient is recycled tire fibres. Although only 0.35 % of the mixture is tires, on a big scale it would make a big difference, while also making concrete that more resilient. It is similar to using tire crumbs in some of the roads in U.S., Germany, Spain, Brazil and China, but in a more permanent application.

The polymer fibres from recycled tires would reinforce the concrete, preventing it from cracking and enhancing the lifespan of the structure. So it is a win-win situation, because environment is being protected while concrete becomes stronger. UBC civil engineering professor Nemkumar Banthia, supervisor of this study, said: “Adding the fibre to concrete could shrink the tire industry’s carbon footprint and also reduce the construction industry’s emissions, since cement is a major source of greenhouse gases”.

And scientists already went into field testing. They made stairs in front of one university building from this new concrete. Special sensors are embedded in the concrete to monitor its performance. So far findings support what was seen in laboratory testing – concrete is very resilient to cracking. Scientists say that this invention has a potential of reducing carbon emissions and the number of tires in landfills.

It still remains a question whether we are going to see more tire fibres being used in building, because testing is still not completed. However, as is we already know it has a potential and technological problems can be solved relatively easily.


Source: The University of British Columbia

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