Is Human Hair The Future Of Bridge Repair?

A research team has explored the potential viability of using hair clippings as a super-strong binder used in sustainable concrete bridge repairs in the future.

Sustainability is the future of construction, and many research teams are exploring how natural materials can be used as part of environmentally friendly bridge repairs and structural construction.

This has led to explorations into a range of options to either replace concrete or make it stronger, more sustainable and easier to repair.

To that end, the University of Kentucky’s College of Engineering has explored the possibility of using, of all materials, human hair as a potential reinforcing agent for concrete.

It is the most recent investigation by the CatStrong team at the university, a group that has helped to reinforce 40 bridges in the area using carbon fibre and hemp as construction materials as a means to find more natural solutions.

The issue with many plant-based solutions is that there are geographical and chronological limitations to access to said materials when used at the scale necessary for widespread repair.

As resilient as bamboo is, for example, it does not grow everywhere and this can limit its ability to be used everywhere that it is needed, and is also required for other purposes.

Other plants, as well, would need to be planted on land used for cultivating food or biofuel, which could affect a range of industries.

Human hair, on the other hand, is widely accessible and widely trimmed. That hair that would otherwise go to waste could be used to create binders that have an average strength half that of steel rebar, which is impressive given how small hair is.

The preparation technique they used was to clear it with acids and water, before mixing it with a binder and pressing it into thin sheets, with experiments currently being carried out to find the ideal mixing process.

If it works, it is a solution that could be widely applied almost anywhere and provide not only sustainable construction solutions but also reduce waste at the same time.