IN: Inspiration

THE CASE FOR VEGETABLE CONCRETE

Nano-platelets derived from vegetables could replace cement in concrete – great news for climate change.

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The real threat of climate change has led scientists to develop alternatives to traditional technologies as they continue to search for a greener approach to wage war on global warming and carbon footprints.

Cement and food: an unusual combination but in this case appropriately symbiotic. British research has revealed that by introducing ‘nano-platelets’ derived from certain vegetables, cement mixes were both stronger and used less cement. Lead researcher, Professor Mohamed Saafi describes nano-platelets as “nano sheets synthesized from carrot and sugar beet root”; such elements replace part of the cement content in the mix (which includes water, cement and aggregate). The vegetables used were obtained from waste products in the food industry.

Adding nano-platelets to the mix increases its calcium silicate hydrate, a substance that strengthens the concrete and is the main product of hydration of Portland cement. In lab tests, scientists found that 40kg less Portland cement was needed per cubic metre to achieve the same strength in the mix, thereby lowering the cement content.

Vegetable-infused concrete could lower the need for purely cementitious mixtures since less cement is required and by directing resources from food wastage into a cement mix, the industry will be able to significantly reduce its impact on climate change.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, roughly one third of food produced for human consumption is wasted and this wastage has a direct impact on the environment; feeding a population of 7 billion demands hefty resources. Of the food produced, fruits and vegetables have the highest rate of food wastage; any industry that re-absorbs these resources, otherwise wasted, will have a significant positive impact on climate change.

The impetus for vegetable-infused concrete is not just ‘green’, according to research, the mixes showed more density in the microstructure and might therefore last longer and avoid corrosion.

Though the research is preliminary, in the long term, there is potential to change how concrete is used and developed. Find out more via: https://bit.ly/2IO0yUb

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