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When the Rubber Hits the Road: Recycled Tires Fibers Create Stronger Concrete, Reduce Waste

One recycled tire produces 1kg or fiber that can be used to make concrete stronger.

One recycled tire produces 1kg or fiber that can be used to make concrete stronger.

July 14, 2017 | Source: The University of British Columbia, news.ubc.ca, 13 June 2017, UBC Public Affairs

UBC engineers have developed a more resilient type of concrete using recycled tires. The concrete has improved durability with better resistance to loads and cracking and could be used for concrete structures like buildings, roads, dams and bridges while reducing landfill waste.

The researchers experimented with different proportions of recycled tire fibres and other materials used in concrete—cement, sand and water—before finding the ideal mix, which includes 0.35 per cent tire fibres, according to researcher Obinna Onuaguluchi, a postdoctoral fellow in civil engineering at UBC.

Recycled-rubber roads are not new; asphalt roads that incorporate rubber “crumbs” from shredded tires exist in the U.S., Germany, Spain, Brazil and China. But using the polymer fibres from tires has the unique benefit of potentially improving the resilience of concrete and extending its lifespan.

“Our lab tests showed that fibre-reinforced concrete reduces crack formation by more than 90 per cent compared to regular concrete,” said Onuaguluchi. “Concrete structures tend to develop cracks over time, but the polymer fibres are bridging the cracks as they form, helping protect the structure and making it last longer.”

UBC civil engineering professor Nemy Banthia, who supervised the work, says the environmental and industrial impact of the research is crucial. Up to three billion tires are produced around the world every year, generating close to three billion kilograms of fibre when recycled.