Conventional concrete containing discontinuous discrete fibres is called fibre-reinforced concrete. Fibers of various shape and size produced from steel, plastic, glass, carbon and natural materials have been used.
However for any reinforcement to be effective, it must be stiffer than the concrete matrix that is reinforcing. Generally the less stiff fibres (made from plastic and natural materials) only offer benefits in improving the tensile strength of plastic and semi-hardened concrete and are therefore mainly used to reduce plastic shrinkage and plastic settlement cracking. The stiffer fibres improve both the tensile strength and the toughness of harden concrete.
The most widely used stiff fibre is steel. Low volume fractions of fibres (less than 1%) are used to reduce shrinkage cracking. Moderate volume fractions (between 1% to 2%) increase flexural strength, fracture toughness and impact resistance. High volume fractions (greater than 2%) lead to strain hardening of the composites. The shape and length of the fibres also play a role in the fibres’ effectiveness in improving the properties of the concrete. The use of fibres in concrete can have a marked effect on the workability of the concrete and this need to be taken into account in the mix proportion of fibre-reinforced concrete.
Currently a great deal of research is being undertaken into the use of ultra-high-performance fibre-reinforced composites. One of the benefits of these materials is extremely high ductility. Fibre-reinforced concrete has been used for precast panels, airfield and highway pavements, industrial floors and in spraying concrete for slope stability and underground mining applications.