ASU researchers look to cut construction time and cost through concrete

An Arizona State University professor is working to perfect a new concrete mixture that costs less and is faster.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 7:28 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Construction can be a real headache, but closures lasting weeks or even months could soon be a thing of the past. An Arizona State University professor is researching an alternative way to mix concrete, which can save builders time and money with a result that he claims is just as strong.

“Our goal is to rethink this 100-year-old technology of only using steel rebars,” said Barzin Mobasher, an ASU Civil engineering professor. Professor Mobasher took Arizona’s Family to their concrete lab on campus, where he’s been looking at ways to remove steel rebar from the concrete equation. “At some point, you reach a point where we just can’t do that anymore, and I’ve dedicated my career to this area to show that it’s possible.”

The regular way to make concrete uses steel rebars, and lots of them are put into frames to reinforce it—this new way of mixing in little things instead, called steel fibers, to achieve a similar product.

In this lab, the concrete is put to the test. They can simulate everything from cars driving on it to earthquakes. They even test other fiber mixtures. An ASU science and technology building was recently built using this concrete. Mobasher said crews will save money and time by eliminating steel rebar from projects.

A lot of hours go into making the rebar frames, and this means those who would be impacted by construction like road projects won’t have to deal with it for quite as long. “Which was really important to the local businesses because you are not closing down traffic,” said Mobasher.

That’s what happened earlier this year when the new concrete mixture was used on part of the Valley Metro Light Rail’s project. What would have taken over 33 weeks for a 1.5-mile stretch was done in half the time and took the original projected cost of $17 million down to just over $5 million.

Currently, the researchers are working with Maricopa County on using this concrete to fix or replace bridges. They are currently testing, but they estimate they can do a replacement in about a week compared to the original, which can take 2 to 3 months.

From Monday, Sept. 18, through Wednesday, Sept. 20, ASU will host a workshop on campus where they are bringing in researchers from across the globe to discuss the benefits of this alternative way of mixing concrete. To learn more about the workshop, click here.

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