Does Concrete Conduct Electricity? Yes, Here’s Why

Amazing! Does Concrete Conduct Electricity? Yes, Here’s Why

Information about Does Concrete Conduct Electricity? Yes, Here’s Why

Phil Puccio

Concrete is made by combining various ratios of sand, cement, stone, gravel and water. The chemical constituents of these materials, silicon, calcium, aluminum, and sulfur, contain ions that move across the concrete to conduct electricity.

Conducts electricityPhoto courtesy Christopher Y Tuan of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Why does concrete conduct electricity?

Mainly because of the water content.

Concrete that is really dry actually has a high resistance to electricity. It is sometimes considered an insulator because there are very few free ions that can move freely across the concrete to conduct an electrical charge.

Water or moisture is a good conductor or electricity because ions can easily flow through.

Damp, damp or wet concrete, together with the chemical components silicon, calcium, aluminum and sulfur, contribute to its electrical conductivity.

Is concrete a “good” conductor of electricity?

The simple answer is NO.

Concrete, especially very dry concrete made up of portland cement, aggregates, sand, and stone, has very high electrical resistance and is sometimes considered an insulator.

Electricity can flow through the movement of ions in electrolytes or through the electrons in metals and semiconductors.

Dry concrete resists these flowing, but wet concrete contains an electrolyte that allows electricity to flow through it.

This electrolyte consists of the water-soluble conductive chemical compounds that are dissolved from the cement powder and are present in the mixing water when the concrete is poured or of water that penetrates the concrete like a rain shower.

Once the concrete has hardened and dried completely, it is very difficult for the current to flow through it.

Can coal ash (fly ash or slag) make concrete more conductive?

Adding slag to conventional concrete improves the conductivity of concrete and can be considered a good ingredient in making conductive concrete. (Source)

Burning coal produces large amounts of ash. The very fine ash particles (fly ash) rise through the exhaust chimneys.

How do you measure the conductivity of concrete?

Concrete is an uneven mixture of different materials (cement, sand, stone, water) with an interwoven pore structure.

The moisture content in this pore structure, when it is high, results in a lower electrical resistance than when the concrete is very dry.

In general, electrical conductivity is difficult to measure, but measuring electrical resistivity is a more accurate way of determining whether or not concrete is conductive.

The electrical resistivity of concrete is determined by how resistant it is to electrical currents when exposed to electricity.

Concrete has capacitive properties, which means that it can suppress an electrical charge.

Since DC (direct current) can produce high polarization effects, DC measurement techniques are not a suitable method for determining the specific electrical resistance.

Alternating current (AC) is used to measure the electrical resistivity of concrete.

When alternating current flows through concrete, the ions in the pore structure align themselves in such a way that they can let current pass in one direction. In this way it enables a way to measure the resistivity.

The two methods of measuring resistivity are:

  1. Uniaxial two-point method
  2. Wenner probe methods


Can carbon fibers be added to the concrete to make it more conductive?

Yes, adding carbon fiber to the concrete mix makes a concrete slab more electrically conductive.

Sometimes referred to as “smart concrete”, this more conductive concrete can help structural engineers identify problem areas in concrete structures long before any deterioration or cracking is detected.

For more information, see the following video:

What could conductive concrete be used for?

Conductive concrete made from steel fibers, steel filings and carbon particles can be used for roads, highways, bridges, airstrips and much more.

Adding an electrical charge to concrete made with these ingredients will heat the concrete and melt the ice and snow.

You can see how well this works in the following video:

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