CEG Industry Blog

BLOG: Bamboo Reinforced Concrete

Bamboo’s ability to bend in extreme ways without breaking and its ability to withstand tensile forces better than timber and even reinforced steel is promising.

📅   Mon August 22, 2016 - Edition
Jeff Winke -CEG BLOGGER


be used as the reinforcing matrix for concrete in the same way as steel.
The monopoly of steel reinforced concrete may be coming to an end, thanks to the likes of my old fishing pole.
be used as the reinforcing matrix for concrete in the same way as steel. The monopoly of steel reinforced concrete may be coming to an end, thanks to the likes of my old fishing pole.

I've always been fond of bamboo ever since I was a kid and somehow got a bamboo fishing pole. It wasn't all that practical but I liked the concept. It made me feel like a hillbilly or what I thought a hillbilly must be like. Unfortunately, this big honking length of bamboo wasn't particularly as practical as my Zebco rod and spincast reel for catching fish. The bamboo pole was lightweight, nice to look at, and it got me imagining what a whole field of fishing poles growing in the wild must look like.

A few years later I was working on the shipping and receiving dock of a major department store and lengths of bamboo were used as strong, practical tools for moving heavy area rugs. Slid down the center of the rolled-up rug, with extra length on both ends, the bamboo pole made it easy for a couple of young guys to carry the new rugs off the truck and into the store's back room.

With the entrance of bamboo flooring as a beautiful and durable alternative to hardwood, my appreciation for bamboo has expanded. And now, I just learned about another cool use for bamboo as a highly renewable and eco-friendly alternative to steel and wood in construction.

Attempts have been made in the past to use bamboo almost as a direct replacement for steel rebar in concrete. The attempts failed because raw, untreated bamboo (ala fishing poles and rug carriers) is susceptible to water absorption, swelling and shrinking, which can limit durability. Plus, bamboo is vulnerable to fungus (Yuck!).

Enter the Future Cities Laboratories, based in Singapore. They are developing advanced fiber composites that incorporate the best features of bamboo. Bamboo's ability to bend in extreme ways without breaking and its ability to withstand tensile forces better than timber and even reinforced steel is making my old fishing pole look promising.

Steel-reinforced concrete is the most common building material in the world, and developing countries are heavy users of the cement and steel consumed by the global construction sector. However, very few developing countries have the ability to produce their own steel or cement. Out of 54 African nations, for instance, only two are producing steel. The other 52 countries all compete in the global marketplace for this ever-more-expensive, seemingly irreplaceable material.

Instead of using bamboo in its natural tubular state as is traditionally the case, Future Cities Laboratories' method first extracts the plant's natural fibers before combining them with an organic resin. This composite material, termed BambooTECH, is highly versatile and lends itself to tooling and manipulation once it's pressed into shape. When fashioned into thin rods, the composite material can be used as the reinforcing matrix for concrete in the same way as steel.

The monopoly of steel reinforced concrete may be coming to an end, thanks to the likes of my old fishing pole.