News | May 2, 2019

Corps of Engineers grant Virginia company exclusive commercial license for Cor-Tuf ultra-high performance concrete

“It’s more than just a new concrete. It’s a true innovation.”

News Article Image of Corps of Engineers grant Virginia company exclusive commercial license for Cor-Tuf ultra-high performance concrete

Industry experts, including representatives of the Federal Highway Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation, watch as pilings are poured in preparation for a flexural and pile drive testing demonstration of Cor-Tuf ultra-high performance concrete.

Courtesy Doug Darling/Cor-Tuf

A concrete called Cor-Tuf UHPC developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can handle just about anything you throw at it, and a new company is ready to deliver.

Bullets, bombs, or a 10-pound bowling ball, which, in a drop test last fall, was tossed from the roof of a 22-foot tall shop onto a 4-inch slab.

“Broke the bowling ball!” said Rich Burgess, president of Cor-Tuf®, as he held the shattered fragments. “This is what Cor-Tuf does to a bowling ball.”

Then he dropped a 67-pound cement block on it. Not a scratch.

(Watch engineers unsuccessfully try to break Cor-Tuf UHPC with a massive hydraulic hammer in a precast piling test below.)

The remarkable material, designed at the Corps’ Geotechnical Structures Lab, is about 10 times stronger than traditional concrete and is composite made of recycled agricultural byproducts, calcium mineral, and some water.

Burgess, a construction expert in his own right, organized a panel of engineering experts to validate Cor-Tuf’s ability to meet and exceed never-before-met ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) specification set by the Federal Highway Administration in 2005.

“It’s a concrete that fits the mold in all aspects,” he said. “High tensile and flexural strength. It doesn’t become brittle, it doesn’t shrink, and there’s no need to steam it or any special curing… I’m 59 and it’s been a while since I’ve been excited like this.”

Designed by the Army for making blast barriers at nuclear facilities and foreign embassies, Cor-Tuf UHPC is ready to become the strongest highways and bridges in the world, and has an estimated lifespan of 75 years, in other words, about three times that of standard concrete.

Until now, the only commercially available ultra-high-performance concrete is manufactured by LaFargeHolcim, a French company, sold under the tradename Ductal.

But last week, after nearly two years of negotiating, the Army granted Integrated Composite Construction Systems (ICCS), Cor-Tuf’s parent company, an exclusive patent license for Cor-Tuf UHPC. And in those months, the company’s founder, Doug Darling, recruited Burgess and a team of construction experts to scale-up production.

With the patent license secure, the company can start to sell Cor-Tuf UHPC at competitive prices and with improved performance. Unlike Ductal, it’s not a bagged product, the sand and cement are added when it’s mixed, drastically reducing shipping weight.

“We can mix our material in the equipment you already have,” Darling said. “Our customers don’t need special tooling. We’re ready for prime time. We can ship Cor-Tuf to any batch plant in the U.S. and its been our intention all along to keep prices down and we’re going to make that happen.”

TechLink, the Department of Defense’s partnership intermediary, helped ICCS and the Army lab come to a mutually beneficial agreement, which included undisclosed financial terms.

“I helped Doug with a first, non-exclusive agreement in early 2017. The company was a startup and needed additional expertise. So, they assembled a team and in order to attract investors, requested an exclusive agreement in October 2017, said Marti Elder, senior technology manager and invention licensing expert who facilitated the deal.

“This is really a landmark tech transfer agreement that will benefit the U.S. economy and taxpayers.”