When the levee breaks

Smart concrete containing short carbon fibers can "detect" stress and tiny deformations in any structure from which it is built, according to its inventor Deborah Chung of the University of Buffalo. She says, the time is ripe for engineers to exploit this property in building flood defences and other structures that face potentially devastating stress from hurricanes and earthquakes. The presence of the carbon fibers means that the electrical resistance of the material can be monitoring by external metering to provide and early warning of imminent material failure.