From Pulses to Veggies to Strengthen the Concrete

Building castle in the air may be an English saying but the historical structures visible in this modern era is narrating the tales of the construction engineers that the buildings were erected with the paste of  Urad daal (Pulses) for giving strength to the concrete and other building materials, the mud and the sand.

The Researchers at England`s Lancaster University suggested that the carrots are useful for strengthening the concrete. As the nano-particles extracted from the carrots and other root vegetables could be strengthened the concrete mixtures.

Preliminary tests by the university's engineers found that "nano platelets" sourced from the fibres of these vegetables "significantly improved" the strength of concrete — and at a low cost.

"These novel cement nanocomposites are made by combining ordinary Portland cement with nano platelets extracted from waste root vegetables taken from the food industry," said engineering professor Mohamed Saafi, who is lead researcher on the project.

In Lancaster University's early studies, the root vegetable nano platelets — which work by increasing the amount of calcium silicate hydrate, the primary substance that gives concrete its strength – outperformed all currently available cement additives. This includes more costly sources like graphene and carbon nanotubes. The engineers were able to use 40 kilograms less Portland cement per cubic metre of concrete.

They are working with an industrial partner, sustainable materials company Cellucomp, on the research. Cellucomp already works with waste root vegetable fibres, with which it manufactures the additive Curran. Wonder-material graphene has recently been touted as the future for stronger concrete, with studies from the University of Exeter showing it could make a composite more than twice as strong and four times more water-resistant than existing mixtures.

"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."

The thinking is that with stronger concrete, less of the material will be required for a building of the same scale. Even a small reduction in quantity could make a big impact, given that the production of cement — the key ingredient in concrete — could account for as much as eight per cent of the world's total carbon dioxide emissions, according to recent statistics.

This is because carbon dioxide is a by-product of the chemical conversion that takes place during cement production. The process also requires the cement to be heated to very high temperatures, often via the burning of fossil fuels.

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