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New negative emissions construction materials have the potential to mitigate climate change and improve infrastructure

Graphical abstraction. Credit: DOI: 10.1016 / j.matt.2021.12.020

Climate change mitigation is one of the biggest challenges facing the world’s population. Today, a team of researchers at Worcester Polytechnic University has developed a whole new material that is a low-cost, influential and sustainable solution for dealing with concrete, one of the leading causes of climate change.


according to Statisa, Between 1995 and 2020, global cement production surged from 1.39 billion tonnes to 4.1 billion tonnes, making it the second most widely used substance on the planet after water. Ubiquitous concrete and its high carbon dioxide (CO)2) Emissions, “Humanity needs to come up with an alternative to concrete,” says Nima Rafbal, an associate professor of civil engineering, environment and architectural engineering.

As published in the journal Matter, WPI research has created a self-healing enzyme building material (ECM). This is described by the research team as “providing a route for repair or replacement” and “living material.” [traditional] It will be concrete in the future. “

Biological enzymes are catalysts that promote chemical reactions.The material uses an enzyme known as Carbonic anhydrase, It is found in all living cells.Carbonic anhydrase reacts efficiently with CO2“It has the unique ability to quickly remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. This property allowed us to formulate carbon-negative materials that could eventually replace concrete.” , Said Susanne Skullata, Professor of Chemistry, Richard Whitcomb.

ECM is made by a process that involves an enzymatic reaction that produces crystals of calcium carbonate, which is the main component of the material. Sand slurries are also added to the material. The polymer holds the material together in the early stages, much like a scaffold does during the construction of a building. Also, if cracks occur due to wear or other damage over time, the material will repair itself and maintain its strength through as many as 6 self-healing cycles.

This study is based on an interdisciplinary collaboration between Rahbar, Scarlata, and Ph.D. Student Shuai Wang. The team previously created a new type of self-healing concrete. New negative emissions construction materials take it one step further, leaving concrete and creating a whole new substance, partially made from carbon dioxide: CO2 Enters the material during manufacturing and the material also consumes CO2 During the self-healing process. In fact, the team devised a calculation that “one cubic yard of ECM stores 18 pounds of CO.”21 cubic yard of concrete emits 400 pounds of CO2“Rahbar says.

Through extensive testing and experimentation, the research team found that the material had what was called “excellent” compressive strength, comparable to traditional mortar, and strong enough to be used as a compressive element in the construction of bridges and buildings. Did. It also does not need to be baked at high temperatures like traditional bricks, and can be manufactured quickly, unlike the 28 days required to harden concrete. ECM can also be manufactured at low cost due to the low proportion of enzymes.

You may not be able to see the ECM right away at the construction site, but it won’t be long before you do so. The research team will first take steps to bring the material out of the lab immediately by enhancing the properties of the ECM by “optimizing the catalytic efficiency of the enzyme, the properties of the scaffold, and the mechanism of the crystal structure”. I am planning. Commercialize the product.


Self-healing concrete can extend the life of the structure


For more information:
Shuai Wang et al, self-healing enzyme building materials, Matter (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.matt.2021.12.020

Quote: New negative emissions construction materials have the potential to mitigate climate change and improve infrastructure (February 22, 2022). .html

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New negative emissions construction materials have the potential to mitigate climate change and improve infrastructure

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