W. R. Grace announces that Dr. Klaus-Alexander Rieder and Dr. Kumar Ranganathan of Grace Construction Products (GCP) are the recipients of the 2014 Grace Award for Technical Excellence (GATE) for their development of STRUX – a series of novel synthetic macro fibers for reinforcing concrete.

Introduced by the Grace Research Council in 2007, GATE recognizes employees for technical achievement of the highest caliber that has resulted in the most significant commercial, societal, and industrial impact. The winning team or individual receives a $10,000 award, which will be presented by Grace Chairman and CEO Fred Festa.
“Alex and Kumar have led the STRUX synthetic fiber for concrete technology platform with insight, courage, ingenuity, passion, and thoroughness,” said Dr. Josephine Cheung, 2014 GATE Selection Committee Chair, and winner of the 2011 GATE.

Dr. David Myers, Vice President of Technology and Marketing, Specialty Construction Chemicals, wrote in his nomination, “The concrete fiber research program led by Alex and Kumar has opened up an entirely new product category for the Concrete Products business at Grace, 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.”

Cheung said the selection committee was impressed by the creative and technically rigorous approach Alex and Kumar had taken in building this new technology platform. The technology has significant societal impact, extending the service life of structures and also lowering installation costs. To date, STRUX has contributed more than $100 million in sales for Grace.

Based in Cambridge, Mass. at the time, Rieder began working on the initial concept for this product shortly after he joined Grace in 1998. The objective was to create plastic fibers to selectively replace steel reinforcement in concrete. The world’s most widely used construction material, concrete requires steel reinforcement in structures such as bridges or buildings. This is not only expensive and labor-intensive, but also susceptible to corrosion.

The result of Rieder’s work was the prototype of STRUX, a product that uses polyolefin fibers to replace steel concrete reinforcement in many applications. STRUX provides the same level of concrete strength, is easy to mix, and is more cost-effective than steel or other rival technologies. Because traditional fibers easily tangle and form lumps, he 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 3-dimensional shape, which further increased the bond between the fiber and the concrete.

Because of the unique design of these novel fibers, there were a host of engineering challenges to overcome in the manufacturing process. Ranganathan, a Senior R&D Engineer with GCP in Cambridge, Mass., defined the manufacturing parameters needed for producing the novel fibers on a commercial scale and designed the special steel rollers required to make the 3-dimensional, bi-tapered fibers.

Ranganathan and 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; a "Particle Nucleation and Growth Model," an effective tool for new product development and process optimization; fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) catalysts that reduce the impact of metals during the processing of crude oil; the Reveleris flash chromatography system that integrates light scattering detection with traditional UV-based purification to improve recovery/purity of new drug candidates; and the ESE cement additive that increases the strength development of cement.