Concrete is fundamentally well suited to WEC structural applications as it has a very low specific material cost, exhibits high stiffness and good fatigue properties, can be manufactured in generalised shapes to suit optimal hydrodynamic forms, and because light weight is not generally a primary concern for absorption. However, many WEC applications are demanding for conventional concrete approaches due to high and reciprocating point-loads, the need to avoid any local cracking or deformation to maintain water tightness for floatation, and the impact of salt water on conventional reinforcement materials. Previous detailed design studies have shown that while conventional approaches to marine concrete structure design and manufacture do generally show a reduction in WEC cost compared to other materials, risks remain high and projected costs remain a long way above the potential low floor the material offers.
In recent years, a number of new concrete material technologies and manufacturing processes have been developed for a wide range of terrestrial or specialised applications. These include: advanced concrete mixes allowing moderate local tensile capacity; fibre reinforced concretes both internal to the mix and externally applied; modern reinforcement materials to address corrosion; advanced jointing technologies between concrete and steel components; and flexible ‘low-or-no’ formwork manufacturing using 3-D printing. The combination of a range of established and novel techniques, and optimisation of designs for them in an Advance Concrete Engineering – WEC project is designed to yield step reductions in the added manufacturing costs of concrete WEC structures, allowing them to quickly approach the low cost asymptotes offered by concrete as a primary material.
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