Recognizing their role in development of a synthetic macro fiber product line that has seen sales exceed $100 million, W. R. Grace & Co. has awarded Grace Construction Products Dr. Klaus-Alexander Rieder and Dr. Kumar Ranganathan the 2014 Grace Award for Technical Excellence (GATE). Accompanied by $10,000, GATE recognizes individual or employee teams for achievement resulting in significant commercial, societal, and industrial impact.
“Alex and Kumar have led the Strux synthetic fiber for concrete technology platform with insight, courage, ingenuity, passion, and thoroughness,” says 2014 GATE Selection Committee Chair Dr. Josephine Cheung. The committee acknowledged the creative and technically rigorous approach they took in building the reinforcing concept and the technology’s significant societal impact, as it extends structures’ service life and lowers construction costs, she adds.
In his GATE nomination of the Strux development team, Dr. David Myers, vice president of Technology and Marketing, Specialty Construction Chemicals observed: “The concrete fiber research program led by Alex and Kumar has opened up an entirely new product category for the Concrete Products business, and has shown the industry a better way of building reinforced concrete structures, which can be less costly and more durable. The work has demonstrated, once again, Grace’s leadership in providing innovative new technology to the construction industry.”
Based at Cambridge, Mass., headquarters at the time, Dr. Rieder began working on the Strux concept shortly after joining Grace Construction Products in 1998. The objective was to create plastic fibers to selectively replace steel reinforcement in concrete. The result was the prototype of a product that uses polyolefin fibers to replace steel concrete reinforcement in many applications. Strux provides what Grace officials contend is the same level of concrete strength and a more cost-effective solution than steel or other rival technologies. Because traditional fibers easily tangle and form lumps, Dr. Reider designed bendable flat fibers which are more resistant to entanglement. Later, when the market demanded even higher reinforcement power, he created another distinctive fiber with a unique three-dimensional shape, which further increased the bond in the concrete matrix.
The fibers’ unique design presented a host of engineering and fabrication challenges. Grace Construction Products Senior Research & Development Engineer Dr. Ranganathan defined manufacturing parameters needed for producing the novel fibers on a commercial scale and designed special steel rollers required to make the three-dimensional, bi-tapered Strux. Dr. Ranganathan and Dr. Rieder, who is now a global technical manager based in Lügde, Germany, are co-inventors on numerous patents granted to Grace related to reinforcing fibers sold under the Strux trade name, their use in concrete, and the manufacturing process.
Past recipients of the GATE were honored for developing the Synchro 1000 cement additive that protects the environment through chromium reduction; ESE cement additive that increases the strength development of cement; a “Particle Nucleation and Growth Model,” an effective tool for new product development and process optimization; fluid catalytic cracking catalysts that reduce the impact of metals during the processing of crude oil; and, the Reveleris flash chromatography system that integrates light scattering detection with traditional UV-based purification to improve recovery/purity of new drug candidates.