A parallel Worlds

Sunday November 6 2011 / Science & Technology

A ‘cement overcoat’ describes what might be termed a problem-solving technique supposedly favoured by mafia hitmen. Think The Godfather, think Dick Tracy.

Whether it is an elaborate real-life disposal method or just a Hollywood movie stereotype, the term ‘cement overcoat’ is obviously a euphemism displaying the Cosa Nostra boys’ jet black sense of humour.

However, the possibility of making an actual cement overcoat, i.e. one that you can create like a tailor and wear like a catwalk model, has been made all the more real thanks to the company Concrete Canvas.

Admittedly the British firm had slightly grander ideas in mind than a concrete overcoat when developing their amazing cement-impregnated fabric.

Called Concrete Cloth, their material consists of cement layered between fabric that can bond with water, backed with PVC.

The product can be formed into the required shape then allowed to absorb water, causing it to set after two hours.

Concrete Cloth can be used structurally and is fireproof as well as waterproof making its potential application in disaster relief, military and commercial environments extremely exciting.

So much so that two years ago, Concrete Canvas was awarded the inaugural prize for Material of the Year by materials consultancy Material ConneXion for developing Concrete Cloth.

The award recognised materials that demonstrated outstanding technological innovation and the potential to make a significant contribution to the advancement of design, industry, society and economy.

“With the simple addition of water, Concrete Cloth makes it possible to create safe, durable, non-combustible structures for a wide range of commercial, military and humanitarian uses,” said Dr. Andrew H. Dent, Vice President, Library & Materials Research at Material ConneXion. “This innovation is especially remarkable for enabling the construction of rapidly deployable shelter and food storage structures in disaster relief situations.”

Indeed, Concrete Canvas Shelters are basically buildings in a bag, coming in airtight, waterproof sacks. They can be erected by just two people in less than two hours.

An electric fan is activated which inflates the plastic inner to lift the structure until it is self supporting. The shelter is then pegged down with ground anchors around the base.

The shelter is then hydrated by spraying with water; the water doesn’t need to be drinkable and even sea water can be used, but not sewage water.

The Concrete Canvas then cures in the shape of the inflated inner and 24 hours later the structure is ready to use.

For more information on this ingenious invention, please visit www.concretecanvas.co.uk

Suggested by
Maximilian Büsser