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Concrete Alternative Set to Make Debut in Mid-October

Wed October 12, 2005 - National Edition
Jennifer Rupp

What Flubber was for the Absent Minded Professor, Grancrete will be to contractors in the future.

No, it doesn’t have anti-gravity properties, it doesn’t pulsate or bounce, and fortunately, it’s not green. It does, however, harden within minutes, can withstand extreme heat and cold, and it doubles the compressive strength psi rating of regular concrete, according to its developer James Paul, of Mechanicsville, VA.

Grancrete is derived from phosphate cement, which was first used in the early 1900s in the form of zinc phosphate as dental cement. The material was further developed by Argonne National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory in Illinois, as magnesium potassium phosphate. This formula was designed to fulfill the need to stabilize and encapsulate radioactive and hazardous waste for the U.S. Department of Energy.

In 1996, Argonne began the patent process for Ceramicrete, which is a chemically-bonded phosphate ceramic. The material was first used in its Idaho division in 1999. Around the same time, Paul was developing a similar product. He worked in the chemical industry for 30 years when he was faced with the need to devise a coating for the floors in the chemical plant that could handle a strong acidic environment. Paul approached Argonne Labs and together, they composed Grancrete.

After studying Grancrete and its properties, Paul believed that it would be a versatile element in construction. He began building low-cost housing for people in Venezuela using a core material composed of 2-in. (5 cm) thick polystyrene board with strategically placed steel or aluminum stiffening, and the spray form of Grancrete as the outer coating.

“It won’t crack or split. It bonds extremely well to itself, which makes it possible to stop a project and restart with no problems. It also bonds well to existing cement, concrete block and brick, making it a good choice for repair to standing structures,” said Gancrete CEO Paul.

What does this mean for heavy construction? While Grancrete is still in its roll-out stage, tests have been conducted using the product for road repair.

In China, a demonstration took place during which Grancrete was poured to fill a hole in a concrete road. The hole measured 3-ft. (.9 m) in diameter and was 4-in. (10.2 cm) deep. The Grancrete was dry in 20 minutes and was strong enough for several 18-wheeler tractor trailers to drive over.

“Unlike concrete, you don’t have to wait hours or days for Grancrete to dry,” said Paul.

Grancrete has the potential to be used for building roads or as a coating to existing concrete surfaces.

“A three-eighths-inch coating can be applied to a concrete road, which will seal it and extend the life of the road,” said Paul.

Similar products also have spun off from Argonne’s Ceramicrete.

Bindan Corporation in Oak Brook, IL, has a filler called Mono-Patch. Mono-Patch is a fast-setting, high-early strength solution for repairing holes and cracks in concrete highways, bridges, industrial floors and other surfaces. It has been in use for seven years with five Departments of Transportation, including Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Minnesota and Missouri.

Similar to Mono-Patch, Grancrete can be used for cold weather repairs and is not affected by moisture or salt. Grancrete’s composition of inorganic materials allows it to be used as a sprayable coating.

Grancrete began producing small quantities for sale in August, with plans for mass-production by mid-October.

Paul has set up a facility in Manchester, MD, to train contractors on the proper use of Grancrete and its custom-designed application equipment. After applying Grancrete, contractors can turn to GX Industries in Carson City, NV, for a color-matched acrylic coating. While the base color of Grancrete is gray so that it blends with regular concrete, users can purchase coating in several shades and multi-color finishes from GX.

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