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Fields & Applications Technology, Materials, Spectroscopy

Cracking Down on Concrete Damage

Researchers from Rice University and the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research have discovered by chance that Portland cement emits near-infrared fluorescence, which could lead to new ways of monitoring the integrity of concrete structures (1).

Originally, the researchers intended to test whether nanotube-based strain sensing technology could be applied to monitor concrete structures – but they found an unexpected interfering emission that they traced back to the cement itself. “We deduced that it contains microscopic crystals of silicon emitting near-infrared photoluminescence,” says Bruce Weisman, Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and NanoEngineering at Rice.

Armed with this new knowledge, the team applied a layer of opaque paint to a cement block and compressed it to induce microcracks, exposing the substrate’s near-infrared emissions and revealing the fracture locations, pattern, and progression.

“This could evolve into a practical method for inspecting critical concrete structures for early signs of damage, thus helping to prevent costly and dangerous failures,” says Weisman. “Going forward, our aim is to optimize the method so that it can become a new tool for nondestructive evaluation of cement-containing materials.”


Image credit: Pixabay / struppi0601

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  1. Weng et al., Sci Rep (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-05113-1.
About the Author
Margot Lespade

Associate Editor, The Analytical Scientist

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