Nav: Home

'Conductive concrete' shields electronics from EMP attack

November 14, 2016

An attack via a burst of electromagnetic energy could cripple vital electronic systems, threatening national security and critical infrastructure, such as power grids and data centers.

Nebraska engineers Christopher Tuan and Lim Nguyen have developed a cost-effective concrete that shields against intense pulses of electromagnetic energy, or EMP. Electronics inside structures built or coated with their shielding concrete are protected from EMP.

The technology is ready for commercialization, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has signed an agreement to license this shielding technology to American Business Continuity Group LLC, a developer of disaster-resistant structures.

Electromagnetic energy is everywhere. It travels in waves and spans a wide spectrum, from sunlight, radio waves and microwaves to X-rays and gamma rays. But a burst of electromagnetic waves caused by a high-altitude nuclear explosion or an EMP device could induce electric current and voltage surges that cause widespread electronic failures.

"EMP is very lethal to electronic equipment," said Tuan, professor of civil engineering. "We found a key ingredient that dissipates wave energy. This technology offers a lot of advantages so the construction industry is very interested."

EMP-shielding concrete stemmed from Tuan and Nguyen's partnership to study concrete that conducts electricity. They first developed their patented conductive concrete to melt snow and ice from surfaces, such as roadways and bridges. They also recognized and confirmed it has another important property - the ability to block electromagnetic energy.

Their technology works by both absorbing and reflecting electromagnetic waves. The team replaced some standard concrete aggregates with their key ingredient - magnetite, a mineral with magnetic properties that absorbs microwaves like a sponge. Their patented recipe includes carbon and metal components for better absorption as well as reflection. This ability to both absorb and reflect electromagnetic waves makes their concrete more effective than existing shielding technologies.

It's also more cost-effective and flexible than current shielding methods, Tuan said. Today's shielding technologies employ metal enclosures that require expensive metal panel or screen construction, limiting their feasibility in large structures.

Through a research agreement with ABC Group, the Nebraska team modified its shielding concrete to work with the company's shotcrete construction method. The resulting patent-pending product protects building interiors from electromagnetic interference, such as radio waves and microwaves, as well as electronic eavesdropping. The material could protect military, financial or other structures that store critical electronics, such as data servers or aircraft.

Shotcrete, a spray-on method of applying concrete, can be used to cost-effectively retrofit existing buildings, a significant benefit to protect existing critical infrastructure and military installations, Tuan said.

To demonstrate its effectiveness, ABC Group recently built a prototype structure at its disaster recovery complex in Lakeland, Florida. The structure exceeds military shielding requirements.

"The concrete has the ability to provide what we call a multi-threat structure," said Nguyen, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who traveled to Florida to evaluate the prototype building. "The structure has to be able to withstand an attack either by an explosive or an electromagnetic attack or other scheme."

Under the licensing agreement, ABC Group has exclusive rights to market the shielding shotcrete product, and its EMSS-Electromagnetic Shielding Shotcrete is now commercially available, said Mauricio Suarez, director of licensing at NUtech Ventures, the university's non-profit technology commercialization affiliate.

"Our proprietary construction methods, which incorporate the Nebraska-developed technology, enable us to construct high-strength, blast-resistant structures that exceed military electromagnetic shielding requirements," said Peter Fedele, ABC Group's CEO. "Our prototype building has been well received as a new shielding construction material by leading experts in the EMP community."

Tuan and Nguyen continue to investigate additional uses for conductive concrete, including improving de-icing and radiant heating and anti-static flooring applications. As new formulations expand the available applications, NUtech Ventures is helping the engineers apply for patents and navigate additional potential licensing agreements.
-end-


University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Related Technology Articles:

October issue SLAS Technology now available
The October issue of SLAS Technology features the cover article, 'Role of Digital Microfl-uidics in Enabling Access to Laboratory Automation and Making Biology Programmable' by Varun B.
Robot technology for everyone or only for the average person?
Robot technology is being used more and more in health rehabilitation and in working life.
Novel biomarker technology for cancer diagnostics
A new way of identifying cancer biomarkers has been developed by researchers at Lund University in Sweden.
Technology innovation for neurology
TU Graz researcher Francesco Greco has developed ultra-light tattoo electrodes that are hardly noticeable on the skin and make long-term measurements of brain activity cheaper and easier.
April's SLAS Technology is now available
April's Edition of SLAS Technology Features Cover Article, 'CURATE.AI: Optimizing Personalized Medicine with Artificial Intelligence'.
Technology in higher education: learning with it instead of from it
Technology has shifted the way that professors teach students in higher education.
Post-lithium technology
Next-generation batteries will probably see the replacement of lithium ions by more abundant and environmentally benign alkali metal or multivalent ions.
Rethinking the role of technology in the classroom
Introducing tablets and laptops to the classroom has certain educational virtues, according to Annahita Ball, an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, but her research suggests that tech has its limitations as well.
The science and technology of FAST
The Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), located in a radio quiet zone, with the targets (e.g., radio pulsars and neutron stars, galactic and extragalactic 21-cm HI emission).
AI technology could help protect water supplies
Progress on new artificial intelligence (AI) technology could make monitoring at water treatment plants cheaper and easier and help safeguard public health.
More Technology News and Technology Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.