CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio—It's appropriate that Dave Brassard included this quote from Arthur C. Clark, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, as the tagline on one of his emails: "Any sufficiently advanced technology will always appear to be magic or impossible."
That is what the silicone industry veteran and founder of Cuyahoga Falls-based Silicone Solutions Inc. appears to be running up against as one of his newest product developments—an additive mixture for use in the concrete industry—may appear to some to be too good to be true.
Brassard has been working on the project for about five years, using his background with silicone and silicon chemistry to develop CoolCure, a two-part admixture he claimed makes for a vastly improved concrete for use in mass pours. That is the type of product typically used in large, thick projects such as bridge supports, embankments, dams and foundries, where the width of the concrete is greater than roughly 3 feet, 10 inches.
Marketed under New Technology Solutions L.L.C.—a subsidiary of Silicone Solutions to handle unusual technologies he has developed for sale or licensing—CoolCure achieves something previously thought unthinkable for mass pour concrete, according to Brassard. It yields a concrete that stays much cooler than traditional Portland cement but also yields a much stronger product.
Industry insiders said that normally you can have one or the other: a cement that doesn't heat up, but is weaker, or one that generates immense heat and is strong, but is susceptible to cracking.
Along this journey, Brassard has tested CoolCure successfully on dozens of occasions, made believers out of two concrete industry veterans, and even won an award for it earlier this year at the World of Concrete show as the Expert's Choice for Best New Materials for Concrete Construction.
But what he hasn't figured out yet is the best way to bring the product to market. And while making a successful development is one thing, gaining acceptance—particularly when you're not an industry insider—can prove tricky indeed.
And the two concrete insiders he has been working with both cautioned that if CoolCure is not successful in its early real-world uses, the innovation's future could be over before it begins.
Brassard said it's not unusual for an outsider to look in and see things that those who have spent careers in the industry may easily overlook. He found that to be the case in the concrete industry, where he said there has been no significant advances in decades. That's why he said it's not surprising that the quality of the product is poor, with bridges and other major concrete structures falling apart, some barely lasting two decades.
He first became involved in studying the problems with concrete when someone approached him and asked if it was possible to make concrete fireproof. Brassard said, "Sure," and he also said he proved that it could be produced so it doesn't generate extreme heat.
As a chemist specializing in silicone, he noted that silicon and silica are key ingredients of concrete. He studied the chemical reaction and found it to be quite inefficient. He said the more efficient a process is, the less byproducts there are, and that all the current problems with cement were related to the byproducts that were generated.
The bottom line, Brassard said, is that he added nano silica and a catalyst, bringing about full conversion of the calcium. With no calcium hydroxide generated, there was no heat. And without heat, there was no cracking.
"It's all based on silicon- and silicone-type technology," Brassard said. "That's why I had the insights. And as an outsider, I could look in and see this, whereas people in the industry have all these paradigms they have to follow. As an outsider I had no preconceived notions, and I was able to look at it from outside of the box."