Concrete material from University of Michigan has tiny fibers dispersed within the concrete mixture that enhance the material's flexibility.


  • Flexible
  • Resilient
  • Strong


  • Bridge design
  • Building design

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities

  • Goal 12: Responsible Production & Consumption

The Challenge

Traditional concrete is brittle: When placed under stress, it is unable to move very far without fracturing. When concrete fractures, it eventually needs to be replaced, requiring more to be manufactured. Unfortunately, cement, one of the main ingredients in concrete, is one of the largest green-house gas emission sources. As a result, making more concrete increases its harmful effects on the environment.

Innovation Details

The concrete material is also called “engineered cementitious composite,”or ECC. The ECC has tiny fibers dispersed through the concrete mix, which contains gravel, sand, and cement. Under stress, the interfaces between the fibers and the cement have controlled slippage, which enables the concrete to bend and recover its original shape without fracturing. The material can deform up to 5 percent in tension before failing, which is approximately 500 times what typical concrete can endure.

Biomimicry Story

Nacre, or mother of pearl, forms the iridescent inner layer of the shells of some mollusks. It is a natural composite of plates of aragonite (a form of calcium carbonate) and natural s that coil around and through the plates. The polymer holds the plates together while allowing them to slip from side to side under stress, enabling the nacre to be both strong and flexible.