A newly developed concrete graphene product has the potential to profoundly improve the sustainability credentials of the concrete industry. Worldwide, concrete production is responsible for around 8% of CO₂ emissions. Concretene – a newly developed graphene-enhanced concrete – has the potential to revolutionise the impact of concrete production on the environment.
First isolated by Kostya Novoselov and Andre Geim in 2004, who were subsequently awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 for their work, graphene is an allotrope of carbon.
It consists of a single layer of atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice making it the thinnest known material, and yet is approximately 200 times stronger than steel. It is also an excellent electricity and heat conductor and can be combined with other materials – giving it huge potential to be integrated into many diverse industries.
The new product – concretene – is made by adding minute amounts of graphene to concrete, strengthening it by around 30% in comparison with traditional concrete. This should mean reduced costs and reduced carbon footprints whilst maintaining the structural performance. In addition, the usual need for steel reinforcement in concrete is reduced, allowing for a concomitant reduction both in the amounts of materials required and the time required to be spent on site.
Concrete sets solid when water and cement in a mixture react chemically, by hydration and gelation, to form a paste that binds with rock and sand to harden. Adding graphene to concrete increases both its resistance to corrosion and perishability, and increases strength by behaving as a catalyst surface and mechanical buttress for the initial hydration reaction – which enables better microscopic bonding of the product.
However, as concretene can be used in exactly the same way as traditional concrete, there are no additional training, preparation or equipment requirements which could lead, in turn, to direct cost savings.