UK - Lancaster University engineers

Vegetables could help strengthen concrete

Engineers at Lancaster University are working with Cellucomp in the UK to research how concrete can be strengthened and made more environmentally friendly by using root vegetables. The idea is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from cement consumption in the construction industry by using a nanomaterial derived from carrots and sugar beetroot.

The construction sector is urgently seeking ways to curb its carbon emissions. The production of ordinary Portland cement, one of the main ingredients for concrete, accounts for 8 per cent of total global CO2 emissions. This is forecast to double in the next 30 years due to rising demand.

The nanomaterial is in the form of very thin sheets made from vegetable nanoplatelets. It is designed to strengthen the cement by amplifying its main hydration product, known as calcium silicate hydrate and which is the main glue that holds the concrete components together. This yields a super-strong concrete with low cement content.

The research project is looking at adding the nanosheets to existing concrete structures to reinforce their strength. The researchers believe the nanosheets will outperform existing alternatives such as carbon fibre. This is partly because concrete beams reinforced with the sheets will be able to bend more, which would help deflect potentially damaging forces.

On it is speculated that the results of the research can be applied to precast concrete, buildings, bridges, pavements, oil and gas, and concrete pipes.

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