IN: Inspiration

New Concrete goes Nano!

A new concrete mix that is more durable and avoids the health hazards of nanoparticles is now available.


Concrete has shaped society for generations. Yet, while concrete helps us immeasurably, its core component, cement, requires a great deal of energy to manufacture. Reducing cement manufacturing time or developing alternatives are priorities for the industry.

Thanks to a USD$160,000 (about R2,2m) grant, Dr Hongyan Ma, an Assistant Professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), seems set to develop a safer, more durable version of concrete using nanoparticles. The technique, which is safer than using other nanoparticles, will be ready for concrete plants to use by 2021.

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Dr. Hongyan Ma


“Our method is to create calcium carbonate nanoparticles inside the concrete by blowing carbon dioxide into the highly diluted wet cement,” says Ma. “The nanoparticles will be formed inside this part of the suspension, in the presence of siliceous ingredients, and you use that to mix the concrete.”

Ma’s method differs from previous attempts to introduce nanoparticles into concrete production by employing fresh cement. In the past, these nanoparticles refused to stick together, but Ma’s success may have to do with the even disbursement of nanoparticles.

There are health concerns when using nanoparticles - the superfine dry particles can have negative side-effects for those working with it, including causing heart problems and lung inflammation.

PPC Imaginarium
Dr. Hongyan Ma in the construction materials lab at Missouri S&T


“Our method is a wet method, so our workers and the labourers at concrete plants will not be exposed to the harmful nanoparticles,” Ma adds.

Ma’s efforts add to those of a number of researchers working to improve concrete’s long-term sustainability by using things like vegetables and waste rubber in the production of concrete.

For more information on Ma’s research at Missouri S&T, visit:

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