In this country, and throughout the world, we rely heavily on concrete as a building material. Numerous structures are made with this material, thanks to its ease of use, hardiness and its ability to withstand the elements and weather well over decades.
A new study recently came out which points out that a new, environmentally friendly method of making concrete may actually produce a superior and stronger material. This new type of concrete is made with ash.
The traditional method of creating concrete uses a combination of chalk and clay. These materials are baked into a powder and then combined with water on-site for building. The chemical reaction between the powder and water creates a durable material. Instead of using these ingredients, this new type of concrete is created with waste ash that is left over after sugar production.
Heloisa Bordallo, a nanophysics researcher at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen stated, “I have been studying cement using quasi-elastic neutron scattering for several years and researchers from Brazil asked whether I wanted to analyse samples of cement mixed with waste products in the form of sugar cane ash. I decided to say yes to the project, which aimed to investigate the properties on a nano-scale and map the mobility of water in the cement. The quality and strength of cement is directly related to how much of the water is chemically bonded. The more the water can move around, the worse it is for the strength and durability.”
This cement, with the ash additive, proves to be much stronger than its counterpart. The water content bonds better with the ashes, to create a denser substance that cures faster and will potentially last longer.
Bordallo adds, “The cement industry is huge and if they are to adopt a new idea, they need to have proof that it works. Using quasi-elastic neutron scattering we have now studied cement mixed with ash and shown what is happening and why it is stronger. Cement production uses a lot of energy and emits large amounts of CO2, because it needs to be heated up to very high temperatures. Cement production accounts for 5 percent of global CO2 emissions. If you replace 20 percent of the content with ash, you are saving both CO2 emissions and raw materials, as you use 20 percent less by utilizing a waste product like ash.”
These new findings are great news for engineers, particularly those with a concentration in fabrication and building industries. As new methods and materials are developed, it is possible that the way we build will be changed dramatically in the future. New researchers are needed to continue these advances.
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