Pykrete - "The Ice Concrete"

Pykrete, also known as Ice Concrete, is an unusually strong substance made from sawdust and water. It was invented by Max Perutz. It is named as pykrete, in honour of Geoffrey Pyke, a British scientist. It is made by mixing approximately 14% sawdust or wood pulp and 86% water by weight and then frozen.The resulting material is strong and non-brittle. It has some interesting properties over pure ice.

It has a slow melting rate. Vastly improved strength and toughness, which is closer to concrete. It can float on water. It is also resistant to flame. It has a crush resistance of greater than 21 megapascals. Even a 25 mm column could support the weight of a typical car. The wood pulp makes the pykrete stable at higher temperatures and imparts it so much strength that even if a .303 caliber bullet is fired at the pykrete, it will penetrate only 16cm.

The biggest use of pykrete was made in World War II, in the construction of a 2 Million Ton Aircraft carrier. The concept was to use reinforced ice to cheaply construct ships that would be virtually unsinkable and relatively resistant to submarine attacks. The project was named as "Project Habbakuk". Unfortunately the project was never put into action due to the lack of funds. Since WWII pykrete has remained a scientific curiosity, unexploited by research or construction of any significance. New concepts for pykrete however crop up occasionally among architects, engineers and futurists, usually regarding its potential for mammoth offshore construction or its improvement by applying super-strong materials such as synthetic composites or Kevlar.

Posted by M Hunt on Friday, September 19, 2008. Filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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