Prestressed concrete is a method for overcoming concrete’s natural weakness in tension. It can be used to produce beams, floors or bridges with a longer span than is practical with ordinary reinforced concrete. Prestressing tendons (generally of high tensile steel cable or rods) are used to provide a clamping load which produces a compressive stress that balances the tensile stress that the concrete compression member would otherwise experience due to a bending load. Traditional reinforced concrete is based on the use of steel reinforcement bars, rebars, inside poured concrete.
Pre-tensioned concrete is cast around already tensioned tendons. This method produces a good bond between the tendon and concrete, which both protects the tendon from corrosion and allows for direct transfer of tension. The cured concrete adheres and bonds to the bars and when the tension is released it is transferred to the concrete as compression by static friction. However, it requires stout anchoring points between which the tendon is to be stretched and the tendons are usually in a straight line. Thus, most pretensioned concrete elements are prefabricated in a factory and must be transported to the construction site, which limits their size. Pre-tensioned elements may be balcony elements, lintels, floor slabs, beams or foundation piles. An innovative bridge construction method using pre-stressing is described in Stressed ribbon bridge.
Prestressed concrete is the predominating material for floors in high-rise buildings and the entire containment vessels of nuclear reactors.
The advantages of prestressed concrete include crack control and lower construction costs; thinner slabs – especially important in high rise buildings in which floor thickness savings can translate into additional floors for the same (or lower) cost and fewer joints, since the distance that can be spanned by post-tensioned slabs exceeds that of reinforced constructions with the same thickness. Increasing span lengths increases the usable unencumbered floorspace in buildings; diminishing the number of joints leads to lower maintenance costs over the design life of a building, since joints are the major focus of weakness in concrete buildings. (Wiki)