Graphene reinforced concrete could reduce the carbon footprint of construction.

The University of Exeter in England has released an article in the most recent issue of the journal Advanced Functional Materials detailing an innovative solution to reducing construction’s carbon footprint. Graphene reinforced concrete that meets British and European standards for construction could help the industry control its effect on global emissions—of which concrete in its current form is responsible for five percent.  

Concrete Production

That shouldn’t surprise you when you learn what it takes to produce just one ton of concrete: the power equivalent of 400 pounds of coal. And a ton of cement produces nearly the same weight of CO2. But this new technique has the chance to revolutionize that process. Graphene reinforced concrete is cost effective to manufacture and has proven to have a low number of defects.

Our cities face a growing pressure from global challenges on pollution, sustainable urbanization and resilience to catastrophic natural events, amongst others,” said co-author of the paper, Professor Monica Craciun.

“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.”

Graphene Reinforced Concrete

Because of the graphene, this specific formula for concrete is yielding a product that is twice as strong, and four times more water resistant than traditional concrete.

Previous efforts to alter the makeup of concrete has led to processes where existing components of concrete were modified. In this instance, graphene is introduced as a new component, where it is suspended in water.

Emission Reduction

But how does the introduction of graphene change concrete’s emissions? By about 50 percent, actually. Graphene reinforced concrete requires fewer materials to make, which translates to a 446 kilogram reduction in carbon emissions for each ton of concrete products.

“This ground-breaking research is important as it can be applied to large-scale manufacturing and construction. The industry has to be modernized by incorporating not only off-site manufacturing, but innovative new materials as well,” said lead author of the article, Dimitar Dimov.

“Finding greener ways to build is a crucial step forward in reducing carbon emissions around the world and so help 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.”

Practical Graphene Applications

Graphene has been promised as a superhero-level allotrope for going on seven decades, but practical uses have been few and far between. Although solutions have been proposed, in the form of dimmable LED light bulbs that use 10 percent less energy than a standard LED bulb, to paper that’s ten times stronger than steel, batteries that never need charging, and solar panels that generate energy when it rains, it’s never truly reached its potential.

Could graphene reinforced concrete change that perception?