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MIT Researchers Cook Up Eco-Friendly Cement


cement-mix-ratioResearchers from the MIT claim to have found the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from one of the most polluting processes- that of making cement. The team did not introduce any new ingredients. Instead, they only tweaked the ratio between calcium and silica-rich clay.

Cement is one of the core ingredients in the making of concrete, the most widely used building material around. Unfortunately, this material is just as polluting as it is useful, and regardless of the numerous efforts, no one has been able to come up with a viable solution to reducing the amount of emissions released during the production process. Probably the most functional solution to date comes from Norway, where cement factory is building a CO2-capturing facility right next to their production plant. There was also the biostone, the greener alternative to cement, but this is still a proof-of-concept.

Considering that there is a huge lack of developments in the field, a team of MIT researchers, led by senior researcher Roland Pellenq, decided to take a closer look at the cement mix, going down to molecular level.  They questioned the standard calcium to silica ratio of 1.7, which is commonly accepted as the one resulting in the most stable and strong cement.

After conducting a series of experiments, however, the team established that the optimal calcium-to-silica clay ratio should in fact be 1.5. Not only that the final product has incredible mechanical resistance , which is double the one achieved with a ratio of 1,7, and it is much less prone to fracturing, but also the team estimated a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the manufacturing process of up to 60%.

The study published in Nature Communications paves the way to exciting new research that could potentially lead to the solution of this ever-so-worrying problem. The work is still at its initial stages, meaning that there is still quite a bit to be done before the technology can be brought to the market. However, if it turns out that it can be scaled up, it will completely transform numerous industries.

Image (c) Shutterstock

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