New light concrete cheaper, greener, inventor says

A new concrete developed by Australian scientists could become a lightweight, environmentally friendly alternative to cement blocks and roof tiles.

The concrete, called HySSIL (which stands for High-Strength, Structural, Insulative, Lightweight), is manufactured in panels using a new low-energy process, said Dr. Swee Liang Mak, who headed up the HySSIL development team for Melbourne-based CSIRO Novel Materials and Processes. CSIRO will not discuss how exactly the concrete is made, but does claim the product will be less expensive than traditional concrete.

“Significant savings are achieved because the technology uses readily available raw materials in smaller quantities,” Mak said.

One distinction between HySSIL and traditional concrete is its appearance. Unlike common concrete, stones are not visible. Instead, the HySSIL concrete looks sponge-like and porous. Unlike other aerated products, the production of HySSIL does not require curing equipment, Mak said.

Its weight is the concrete’s main attraction. CSIRO claims the lightweight concrete will save money during construction because it will cost less to transport and no heavy lifting equipment will be needed to install it.

According to HYSSIL director Colin Knowles, CSIRO is focusing on getting a license in the American market. Once manufactured in the United States, the product will likely first appear in the form of wall panels. The developers hope it will later be used for roof tiles, floor systems, decks and noise barrier panels.