The famed pioneer of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer concrete, Empa, is back. This time, its researchers have developed a durable, iron-based shape-forming metal alloy. Patented as ‘memory steel’ in 2012, the material has been crafted to improve existing building strength.
Memory Steel’s Introduction
Memory steel form-fits an already established structure when it’s heated. Even better: It undergoes pre-stressing during this process. Today, modern concrete structures need to be pre-stressed with hydraulics. In most cases, installers need to install a wealth of force transfer anchors, tension cables, and hydraulic jacks to transfer the energy.
Aside from basic construction costs, this process isn’t cheap. The oil-filled hydraulic jacks are responsible for supporting a structure’s underlying geometric framework. Often, older structures simply can’t keep up with the application due to its large space requirements.
While memory steel is new, the research to birth it isn’t. Empa has developed the material for 15 years, attempting to harness the perfect method of preparing a series for readiness. Their goal, of course, is to help builders avoid hydraulic pre-stressing altogether. In doing so, they can rely on the steel’s unique properties across a wide array of projects.
How It Works
Memory steel picks up either infrared radiator energy or an electric current. On contact, the metal’s alloys—iron-based—are quickly, and permanently, pre-stressed to the applied concrete structure. Memory steel is expected to take the market by storm, and several projects utilizing the invention have boosted its industry karma.
In the early 2000s, Empa experimented with memory shaping alloys with nickel-titanium alloys. The tests surrounding these early days were positive, leading Empa to succeed with its fully iron-based memory shaping design. By 2012, Julian Michels and researchers founded the company which would soon propel memory steel into its new age of development.
A Future with Memory Steel
As suggested above, memory steel will redefine the way buildings are strengthened. However, its applications extend well beyond concrete. Memory steel can be used to strengthen lift shafts, windows and doors—especially in old buildings.
Industrial buildings also benefit from memory steel: The invention has made small-space work much safer due to the reduced need for heat sources. A strip of memory steel is all one needs to secure the area. Once it has been fastened beneath a ceiling via dowels, for example, it can be harmlessly heated with an infrared radiator.
Memory steel can also be set in concrete. One need only mill a groove into the concrete slab surface. After installing a ribbed reinforcement memory steel par into the same groove, one can apply mortar. The project is heated with a direct electrical charge and is pre-stressed.
Memory steel will be presented to architects and building experts during several technical seminars in the near future. As Empa furthers its innovative design, there’s no telling what the invention’s future might provide.