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A concrete you can work on

FRENCH boffins have developed a concrete they claim can be machined after hardening, just as timber and steel can be turned on a lathe.

Scientists from construction chemical specialist Sika and contractor Eiffage have teamed up to develop a ductile, ultra highperformance, fibre-reinforced concrete (UHPFRC).

Although UHPFRCs have been around for some time, this latest development boasts a working accuracy of one-tenth of a millimetre and a porosity of less than 2 per cent.

'The material is extremely ductile and can be machined or cast to very high tolerances, ' claimed a spokesman.

The properties of the new concrete, known as Ceracem, allow it to be substituted for materials such as cast iron, steel, resins and composites.

An inorganic material, it is available in different versions depending on the properties required and is manufactured using industrial ceramic production processes to provide a compressive strength as high as 200,000 Kn/sq m.

But the material could prove prohibitively expensive at its current price of £1/kg, although this initial outlay pales next to the whole-life cost savings, says the company.

'Better durability, time saving and lighter weight structures will offset the disadvantage of initial cost, ' the spokesman said.

The concrete is due to be used by Eiffage during the construction of a toll barrier for a new 18-lane viaduct near Millau in the French Pyrenees.