Civil engineers from Kansas State University are determined to find a way to reduce the carbon footprint of concrete production by using biodiesel byproducts. The study is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering.
The process of making concrete does not require as much energy as making steel or other construction materials. However, the fact that around 7 billion cubic meters of concrete are used every year worldwide, makes the industry contribute to the global carbon dioxide emissions by 3 to 8 percent.
According to Feraidon Ataie, doctoral student in civil engineering, Kabul, Afghanistan, one way to lower down the emissions, would be to use byproducts of biofuel. This will not only be great news for environmentalists, but it will also make the material much stronger.
The method that Ataie and his mentor Kyle Riding, assistant professor of civil engineering, evaluates various environmentally friendly materials that can be used as a replacement to portland cement, one of the major components of concrete.
The researchers are particularly interested in byproducts from cellulosic ethanol, produced from wood chips, wheat straw or other inedible material. This type of ethanol differs from other bioethanols from corn and grains, because unlike the latter, cellulosic ethanol is not considered valuable.
The main reason for this, as Riding explains, is the fact that the leftover material contains lignin, which makes it inedible for cattle. This byproduct is usually burning it to produce electricity or disposing of the ash.
The team, however, tested various pre-treatment techniques in order to find alternative uses of this ethanol. By finding application of the ash, the team aims to make the manufacturing of biofuels much more cost-effective.
The process could be extremely beneficial to agricultural areas, where the left-over weat straw could be used for something much better than filling a landfill site. The success of the technique is just as valuable for the biofuel industry as it is for the concrete production.