Carrots cannot help you see in the dark, but they could make your buildings stronger, and more environmentally friendly. Engineers at Lancaster University in the UK have worked in collaboration with Cellucomp Ltd UK to study the effects of adding “nano platelets” extracted from the fibers of root vegetables to enhance the performance of concrete mixtures.
The vegetable-composite concretes, made from vegetables such as sugar beet or carrot, have structurally and environmentally out-performed all commercially-available cement additives, such as graphene and carbon nanotubes, doing so at a much lower cost.
The potential of the vegetable-composite concretes lies in the ability of the nano platelets to increase the amount of calcium silicate hydrate in concrete mixtures, which is the main substance controlling structural performance. The knock-on effect means smaller quantities of concrete would be needed for construction.
In addition, the nano platelets could improve product quality, reducing the number of cracks that appear in concrete. A denser microstructure also helps to prevent corrosion and increase material lifespan.
The environmental benefits become more apparent when studying CO2 emissions. At the moment, production of Portland cement accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions, a number due to double in 30 years. With root vegetables providing a more durable mixture, a saving of 40kg of CO2 per cubic meter could be achieved.
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.
-Professor Mohamed Saafi, Lancaster University Engineering Department
The two-year research project has received almost £200,000 backing from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, and will now build on early findings to gain a fuller understand of how the vegetable nano platelet fibers can enhance the concrete mix.
News via: Lancaster University