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Fiber-reinforced concrete (FRC) is concrete containing fibrous material which increases its structural integrity. It contains short discrete fibers that are uniformly distributed and randomly oriented. Fibers include steel fibers, glass fibers, synthetic fibers and natural fibers – each of which lend varying properties to the concrete. In addition, the character of fiber-reinforced concrete changes with varying concretes, fiber materials, geometries, distribution, orientation, and densities.
The concept of using fibers as reinforcement is not new. Fibers have been used as reinforcement since ancient times. Historically, horsehair was used in mortar and straw in mud bricks. In the 1900s, asbestos fibers were used in concrete. In the 1950s, the concept of composite materials came into being and fiber-reinforced concrete was one of the topics of interest. Once the health risks associated with asbestos were discovered, there was a need to find a replacement for the substance in concrete and other building materials. By the 1960s, steel, glass (GFRC), and synthetic fibers such as polypropylene fibers were used in concrete. Research into new fiber-reinforced concretes continues today.
Effect of fibers in concrete
Fibers are usually used in concrete to control cracking due to plastic shrinkage and to drying shrinkage. They also reduce the permeability of concrete and thus reduce bleeding of water. Some types of fibers produce greater impact–, abrasion–, and shatter–resistance in concrete. Generally fibers do not increase the flexural strength of concrete, and so cannot replace moment–resisting or structural steel reinforcement. Indeed, some fibers actually reduce the strength of concrete.
The amount of fibers added to a concrete mix is expressed as a percentage of the total volume of the composite (concrete and fibers), termed "volume fraction" (Vf). Vf typically ranges from 0.1 to 3%. The aspect ratio (l/d) is calculated by dividing fiber length (l) by its diameter (d). Fibers with a non-circular cross section use an equivalent diameter for the calculation of aspect ratio. If the fiber's modulus of elasticity is higher than the matrix (concrete or mortar binder), they help to carry the load by increasing the tensile strength of the material. Increasing the aspect ratio of the fiber usually segments the flexural strength and toughness of the matrix. However, fibers that are too long tend to "ball" in the mix and create workability problems.
Some recent research[where?] indicated that using fibers in concrete has limited effect on the impact resistance of the materials. This finding is very important since traditionally, people think that ductility increases when concrete is reinforced with fibers. The results also indicated that the use of micro fibers offers better impact resistance to that of longer fibers.
As for pavements, the most prevalent use for FRC is at toll plazas where nonmetallic fibers are used in lieu of metallic reinforcement since they can disrupt electronic toll readers signals.
- Improve mix cohesion, improving pumpability over long distances
- Improve freeze-thaw resistance
- Improve resistance to explosive spalling in case of a severe fire
- Improve impact resistance
- Increase resistance to plastic shrinkage during curing
Steel fibers can:
- Improve structural strength
- Reduce steel reinforcement requirements
- Improve ductility
- Reduce crack widths and control the crack widths tightly, thus improving durability
- Improve impact– and abrasion–resistance
- Improve freeze-thaw resistance
Blends of both steel and polymeric fibers are often used in construction projects in order to combine the benefits of both products; structural improvements provided by steel fibers and the resistance to explosive spalling and plastic shrinkage improvements provided by polymeric fibers.
In certain specific circumstances, steel fiber can entirely replace traditional steel reinforcement bar ("rebar") in reinforced concrete. This is most common in industrial flooring but also in some other precasting applications. Typically, these are corroborated with laboratory testing to confirm that performance requirements are met. Care should be taken to ensure that local design code requirements are also met, which may impose minimum quantities of steel reinforcement within the concrete. There are increasing numbers of tunnelling projects using precast lining segments reinforced only with steel fibers.
Micro-Rebar has also been recently tested and approved to replace traditional reinforcement in vertical walls designed in accordance with ACI 318 Chapter 14. 
Some developments in fiber-reinforced concrete
An FRC sub-category named High-Performance Fiber Reinforced Concrete (HPFRC) claims 500 times more resistance to cracking and 40 percent lighter than traditional concrete. HPFRC claims it can sustain strain-hardening up to several percent strain, resulting in a material ductility of at least two orders of magnitude higher when compared to normal concrete or standard fiber-reinforced concrete. HPFRC also claims a unique cracking behavior. When loaded to beyond the elastic range, HPFRC maintains crack width to below 100 µm, even when deformed to several percent tensile strains. Field results with HPFRC and The Michigan Department of Transportation resulted in early-age cracking.
Recent studies performed on a high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete in a bridge deck found that adding fibers provided residual strength and controlled cracking. There were fewer and narrower cracks in the FRC even though the FRC had more shrinkage than the control. Residual strength is directly proportional to the fiber content.
A new kind of natural fiber-reinforced concrete (NFRC) made of cellulose fibers processed from genetically modified slash pine trees is giving good results. The cellulose fibers are longer and greater in diameter than other timber sources. Some studies were performed using waste carpet fibers in concrete as an environmentally friendly use of recycled carpet waste. A carpet typically consists of two layers of backing (usually fabric from polypropylene tape yarns), joined by CaCO3 filled styrene-butadiene latex rubber (SBR), and face fibers (majority being nylon 6 and nylon 66 textured yarns). Such nylon and polypropylene fibers can be used for concrete reinforcement. Other ideas are emerging to use recycled materials as fibers: recycled Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fiber, for example.
Steel fibre-reinforced shotcrete (SFRS) is a kind of spray concrete (shotcrete) with steel fibres added.
For statistical calculations there is a new modelling in Stahlfaserbeton by Bernhard Wietek.
- BS EN 14889-1:2006 – Fibres for Concrete. Steel Fibres. Definitions, specifications & conformity
- BS EN 14845-1:2007 – Test methods for fibres in concrete
- ASTM A820-06 – Standard Specification for Fiber-Reinforced Concrete (superseded)
- ASTM C1018-97 – Standard Test Method for Flexural Toughness and First-Crack Strength of Fiber-Reinforced Concrete (Using Beam With Third-Point Loading) (Withdrawn 2006)
- Li, V.; Yang, E.; Li, M. (28 January 2008), Field Demonstration of Durable Link Slabs for Jointless Bridge Decks Based on Strain-Hardening Cementitious Composites – Phase 3: Shrinkage Control (PDF), Michigan Department of Transportation
- ACI 544.3R-93: Guide for Specifying, Proportioning, Mixing, Placing, and Finishing Steel Fiber Reinforced Concrete (PDF), American Concrete Institute, 1998
- Wang, Y.; Wu, HC.; Li, V. (November 2000). "Concrete Reinforcement with Recycled Fibers". Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering.
- Ochia, T.; Okubob, S.; Fukuib, K. (July 2007). "Development of recycled PET fiber and its application as concrete-reinforcing fiber". Cement and Concrete Composites 29 (6): 448–455. doi:10.1016/j.cemconcomp.2007.02.002.
- Wietek, Bernhard (2008). Stahlfaserbeton. Vieweg+Teubner Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8348-0592-8.