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Reinforced concrete (RC) is a composite material in which concrete's relatively low tensile strength and ductility are counteracted by the inclusion of reinforcement having higher tensile strength or ductility. The reinforcement is usually, though not necessarily, steel reinforcing bars (rebar) and is usually embedded passively in the concrete before the concrete sets. Reinforcing schemes are generally designed to resist tensile stresses in particular regions of the concrete that might cause unacceptable cracking and/or structural failure. Modern reinforced concrete can contain varied reinforcing materials made of steel, polymers or alternate composite material in conjunction with rebar or not. Reinforced concrete may also be permanently stressed (in compression), so as to improve the behaviour of the final structure under working loads. In the United States, the most common methods of doing this are known as pre-tensioning and post-tensioning.
For a strong, ductile and durable construction the reinforcement needs to have the following properties at least:
François Coignet was a French industrialist of the nineteenth century, a pioneer in the development of structural, prefabricated and reinforced concrete. Coignet was the first to use iron-reinforced concrete as a technique for constructing building structures. In 1853 Coignet built the first iron reinforced concrete structure, a four story house at 72 rue Charles Michels in the suburbs of Paris. Coignet's descriptions of reinforcing concrete suggests that he did not do it for means of adding strength to the concrete but for keeping walls in monolithic construction from overturning. In 1854, English builder William B. Wilkinson reinforced the concrete roof and floors in the two-storey house he was constructing. His positioning of the reinforcement demonstrated that, unlike his predecessors, he had knowledge of tensile stresses.
Joseph Monier, a French gardener and known to be one of the principal inventors of reinforced concrete, was granted a patent for reinforced flowerpots by means of mixing a wire mesh to a mortar shell. In 1877, Monier was granted another patent for a more advanced technique of reinforcing concrete columns and girders with iron rods placed in a grid pattern. Though Monier undoubtedly knew reinforcing concrete would improve its inner cohesion, it is less known if he even knew how much reinforcing actually improved concrete's tensile strength.
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