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9th July 2018, Exeter

Graphene concrete has carbon-cutting potential

A new composite concrete incorporating graphene via nanoengineering has been developed at the University of Exeter in the UK.

It is more than twice as strong and four times more water resistant than existing concretes and can be used directly by the construction industry on building sites. All of the concrete samples tested have been according to British and European standards for construction and crucially, the new graphene-reinforced concentre material also drastically reduces the carbon footprint of conventional concrete production methods, making it more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

A new composite concrete incorporating graphene has been developed at the University of Exeter. © University of Exeter

“Our cities face a growing pressure from global challenges on pollution, sustainable urbanization and resilience to catastrophic natural events, amongst others,” says Professor Monica Craciun, from Exeter’s engineering department. “This new composite material is an absolute game-changer in terms of reinforcing traditional concrete to meets these needs. Not only is it stronger and more durable, but it is also more resistant to water, making it uniquely suitable for construction in areas which require maintenance work and are difficult to be accessed.

“Yet perhaps more importantly, by including graphene we can reduce the amount of materials required to make concrete by around 50 per cent – leading to a significant reduction of 446kg per ton of the carbon emissions. The unprecedented range of functionalities and properties uncovered are an important step in encouraging a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly construction industry worldwide.”

Previous work on using nanotechnology has concentrated on modifying existing components of cement, one of the main elements of concrete production.

For this development, the research team has created a new technique that centres on suspending atomically thin graphene in water with high yield and no defects, low cost and compatible with modern, large scale manufacturing requirements.

Dimitar Dimov, also from the Exeter engineering team adds: “This research is important as it can be applied to large-scale manufacturing and construction. The industry has to be modernised by incorporating not only off-site manufacturing, but innovative new materials as well. Finding greener ways to build is a crucial step forward in reducing carbon emissions around the world and so helping protect our environment as much as possible. It is the first step, but a crucial step in the right direction to make a more sustainable construction industry for the future.”

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