Graham Sustainability Institute

Sustainable Infrastructure with Plant Fibers

U-M Investigators

Victor Li – College of Engineering (Civil & Environmental Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering)


Holmer Savastano, Jr. – University of Sao Paulo

Project Summary

Building on efforts to develop a plant-based cement composite material that would perform better than synthetic materials and other natural fibers (e.g., jute), this research team worked to improve the tensile strength of engineered cementitious composite (ECC) developed using Curauá  plant fibers. The research focused on three key tasks:

  • Sytematic development of a high strength Curauá fiber - The team evaluated the strength of fibers extracted from different parts of the plant, as well as from different varieties of the plant with the goal of identifying optimal combinations to engineer fibers with strength comparable to those used in conventional ECC.
  • Systematic composite design - The team evaulated matrix properties and assessed different methods that improve the fiber/matrix mix and achieve intended strength and integrity.
  • Durability studies of the Curauá fiber reinforced ECC - The team evaluated the long-term performance of the new material to determine how it maintains its mechanical properties, especially strength and flexibility, over time.

This project received a $85,000 UM-Brazil Sustainability Cooperation Grant in 2015.