Engineers from the University of Adelaide are developing concrete materials which are capable of protecting buildings from terrorist bomb attacks.

Dr Chengqing Wu, senior lecturer at the University of Adelaide’s School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering, has led a team of researchers in the development of a high resistance concrete which is capable of withstanding the intense blast loading produced by terrorist bomb attacks.

The ultra high performance concrete developed by Wu and his colleagues achieves significantly improved strength and ductility via the adulteration of the cement mixture with fine steel fibres and other materials.

While Wu had previously conducted blast testing at facilities in Woomera, South Australia to determine the the strength of the new concrete, as well as help to devise related guidelines, a new round of testing conducted in collaboration with partners in China has served to further vindicate the remarkable fortitude of his invention.

A comprehensive barrage of testing performed in collaboration with the Tianjin Chengjian University in the north of China has now demonstrated that the concrete developed by Wu and his team possesses remarkable compressive and tensile properties, surpassing conventional concrete materials at least five fold in terms of key measures of strength.

Wu’s concrete possess five times the ability of conventional concretes to withstand compressive force, 10 times the ability to withstand the tensile stress produced by stretching or pulling, as well as significantly enhanced ductility.

The tests have further determined that building columns made from the high performance concrete are capable of withstanding the blast impact produced by 50 kilograms of TNT, as compared to conventional concrete columns, which is destroyed by a mere 10 kilograms of material.

According to Wu, columns made from the material should be capable of enduring an explosion caused by a suitcase bomb placed directly adjacent to them.

The efforts of Wu and his team are directed specifically at the production of concrete materials which are capable of protecting vulnerable buildings in strife-torn urban areas from the threat of terrorist bomb attacks.

“While many important buildings in cities have concrete barriers to hold back cars and other vehicles that may contain explosives, in crowded downtown areas they may not be space for barriers – and they still will not prevent bombs carried in backpacks and the like,” said Wu.

“We need technologies to strengthen the buildings themselves and mitigate against the blast effects.”