New research has discovered that combining nano platelets, taken from waste vegetables, with cement can actually create far stronger concrete – even stronger than graphene. Not only can it achieve stronger material, but it is a far cheaper method and is also vastly better for the environment. So could carrots really be the answer?
Researchers at Lancaster University have discovered that adding nanoparticles from vegetables to cement creates far stronger concrete than ever achieved before.
What makes the discovery so attractive is it serves to solve several issues. Not only does it create a far stronger strain of concrete, but the vegetables can be sourced from the vast amounts of waste that is not used for human consumption. This means using the vegetable nanoparticles is also much cheaper for manufacturers and construction companies, in comparison to other alternatives like graphene or carbon nanotubes.
It also solves the ever-present environmental issue. Cement production, a key ingredient in concrete, accounts for 8% of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions. By using the new veggie concrete, less concrete is required as the material itself is stronger. Therefore less cement will have to be used, lowering the quantity produced and helping to reduce the construction industry’s carbon footprint on a massive scale. This is because carbon dioxide is a by-product of the chemical conversion that takes place during cement production. The process also requires the cement to be heated to very high temperatures, often via the burning of fossil fuels.
“These novel cement nanocomposites are made by combining ordinary Portland cement with nano platelets extracted from waste root vegetables taken from the food industry,” said engineering professor Mohamed Saafi, who is lead researcher on the project.
“The composites are not only superior to current cement products in terms of mechanical and microstructure properties but also use smaller amounts of cement. This significantly reduces both the energy consumption and CO2 emissions associated with cement manufacturing.”
The nanoparticles from the vegetables work by increasing the amount of calcium silicate hydrate, the primary substance that gives concrete its strength. Using the nanoparticles in concrete means that 40 kilograms less Portland cement was needed per cubic metre of concrete.
The work done by researchers at Lancaster University has led to them being given £195,000 in extra funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme to proceed with further research, in the hope that the results could help curb carbon emissions from the construction industry.
Working alongside Cellucomp, an industrial partner in sustainable materials, it is possible that they have found a complete and sustainable solution to strengthening concrete, enabling stronger and taller buildings for the future with less of an environmental cost.