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Root vegetables to help make new buildings stronger, greener

By Brooks Hays
The global cement industry is expected to double in size over the next 20 years as construction booms across Asia and Africa. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/f90d53b766e05db11c602d4b21b6c947/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
The global cement industry is expected to double in size over the next 20 years as construction booms across Asia and Africa. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

July 20 (UPI) -- In an effort to make new construction greener and stronger, engineers and material scientists are turning to beets and carrots. Researchers have combined Portland cement with nanoplatelets extracted from root vegetable fibers to produce a stronger, more eco-friendly building material.

"The composites are not only superior to current cement products in terms of mechanical and microstructure properties but also use smaller amounts of cement," lead researcher Mohamed Saafi from Lancaster University said in a news release. "This significantly reduces both the energy consumption and CO2 emissions associated with cement manufacturing."

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The cement industry accounts for approximately 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. The less cement that is used to make concrete, the greener the concrete.

Portland cement works as the binding agent when mixed with water and a rocky aggregate, typically gravel, sand or some combination of the two. By adding nanoplatelets, scientists were able to boost the amount of calcium silicate hydrate in the concrete mixture, the component responsible for concrete's strength.

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The added strengthening component allowed scientists to build concrete using less cement.

Researchers believe the nanoplatelets could be sourced from food waste from the food processing industry.

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As construction industries continue to grow across the globe -- a response to growing populations in Asia and Africa -- concrete production is expected to double over the next two decades. A report released this spring suggested cement companies needed to double the emissions reduction efforts to meet the targets set by the Paris agreement.

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If the latest technology can be scaled up and incorporated into concrete production, the construction industry could reduce the carbon footprint of each new building.

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