Our value proposition is to provide detailed data on concrete conditions in real-time, through the curing process as well as the operational lifetime. We achieve this through our proprietary technology, the Smart Cement system. This technology gives concrete sensing capabilities so that a user will be able to monitor the exact status of their structures in real-time, at very high sensitivities. These properties include cracking, contamination, corrosion, temperature changes, and more. By gathering and delivering data on these properties, we can make structures “smart” and ultimately mitigate potential failures.
Technology and Systems
The system starts by mixing our proprietary cement additive throughout a cement mix. This additive is made up of very fine fibers. These fibers have conductive properties that we can use to gather data. Once the additive has been mixed in, the cement becomes piezoresistive. Basically, this just means that if any kind of stress is applied to the structure, an electrical property called resistivity will also change. These resistivity changes are the data we are going after. It is important to mention that we are able to gather this data during both the curing process of the cement as well as the operational lifetime of the concrete structure. This means we can detect if the cement does not set properly early on, as well as if it deteriorates years later.
To extract the data from the structure, we use existing reinforcement as probes. For example, if our additive was implemented in a concrete bridge, we could use the steel rebar of that bridge to communicate analog resistivity data to our monitoring interface. Based on changes in this resistivity data, we can infer any cracks, damages, or corrosion in the structure. Furthermore, we are able to do this at very high sensitivities. This is critical, because cement generally fails at only 0.2% strain, which is very difficult to read. But our Smart Cement technology can monitor this strain with about 2500 times magnification. This means we can even monitor temperature changes and contamination in structures. All of these variables can be monitored in real-time.
In 2012, R&D for our technology was funded by the DOE for $2.6 million. This funding was a research grant, strictly for the development of the technology – not the commercialization of it. With that said, R&D has been very successful and the technology is now ready to go from the lab to the real-world. To do this, we are currently evaluating strategic partnerships with different parties who have expressed interest in championing this technology. These parties include venture capitalists, oil and gas service companies, as well as general cementing companies. Our highest priority in this partnership is to get commercial testing for our system. Once real-world implementation has been proven, we will be able to start selling Smart Cement to customers. This will require about 2-3 years of testing in different applications.
Dr. Cumaraswamy Vipulanandan is the inventor of our technology, chairman and professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Houston, and director of the Center for Innovative Grouting Materials and Technology (CIGMAT). Our management team is composed of 4 Business graduates from the University of Houston, as well as Anudeep Reddy, our lead scientist who has been developing Smart Cement alongside Dr. Vipulanandan over the last 2 years. Our advisory board includes individuals like Ernest Cubit, who has 30 years of high-level experience in cementing through leadership positions at companies like TXI and Lhoist, as well as Frank Peña, seasoned software expert and CEO of Data Management Solutions. Furthermore, we have advisors who help us adapt our system around specific industry applications like transportation infrastructure and oil and gas. We also have legal council to assist us in contracts and liability procedures, as well as a separate legal team from the university that drafts, reviews, and maintains the patents to our system.