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Lightweight, durable iNTERpipe polymer concrete pipe—with origins in an lowan's garage—is ideal for wastewater applications. Photo: Polymer Pipe Technology LLC

More than 30 years ago, Arthur Espeland began experimenting in his Iowa garage with different forms of polymer concrete. His formulations involved replacing portland cement with a plastic resin, mixed with a silicon powder to bind the aggregate rock and sand together. The blend created a strong, durable bond and produced concrete that set quicker, lasted longer, and weighed less than traditional concrete.

According to the Des Moines Register, Espeland's pursuit remained a hobby until his death in 1990; soon after, John and Robert took up their father's work and decided to make it a business. Within two years, their group was selling sludge-recycling tanks to the mining industry in the Southwest. Today, Polymer Pipe Technology LLC, based in Des Moines, Iowa, gears its iNTERpipe polymer product toward the wastewater industry, an ideal niche for the corrosion-resistant material.

“There are many applications,” said Max Porter, an Iowa State University engineering professor who ran tests on the polymer concrete during the 1980s and ‘90s. “This particular technology was a really good technology. It was just a matter of finding the right niche.”

Other potential applications for the concrete include highway structures, foundations, ship ballast, residential applications, and various security structures (such as vaults and protection barriers).