How Can Concrete Become Stronger and More Environmentally Friendly?

Concrete has been used as a building material since ancient times. The Romans used concrete to construct architectural marvels such as the Pantheon, which has the world's oldest and largest unreinforced concrete dome and dates back to the 2nd century A.D. In 1824, Joseph Aspdin of Leeds, England, patented Portland cement, the key ingredient in modern concrete. This invention ultimately spawned today’s massive construction industry. But making Portland cement is not eco-friendly, and the industry is looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint. That’s where engineers at Lancaster University come in. They discovered that adding nano-platelets extracted from carrots and sugar beets can significantly improve the strength of concrete mixtures, thus reducing the need for so much Portland cement.

Building better with veggies:

  • Environmentally-friendly mixtures made with vegetable nano-platelets have an increased amount of calcium silicate hydrate, which dramatically toughens the performance of concrete. The vegetable nano-platelets also help prevent cracks from forming.

  • These green mixtures also out-perform traditional cement additives, such as graphene and carbon nanotubes, and do so at a lower cost. In addition, engineers are finding that less concrete may be necessary in buildings, due to the new formula’s dense microstructure.

  • The industry is seeking ways to reduce emissions from the concrete production process, which is responsible for around 7 percent of total global carbon dioxide emissions -- a figure that is expected to double in the next 30 years.

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