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Scientists Alter Concrete Method

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

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A Rutgers University spinoff has developed a new technology aimed at revamping the 200-year-old concrete and cement production process.

Solidia Technologies, founded by Rutgers professor Richard Riman and headed up by CEO Tom Schuler, report they have successfully come up with a solution to reducing the carbon footprint of cement and concrete. The technology was co-invented by Riman and Solidia's chief scientist, Vahit Atakan.

Not only has the company come up with a way to reduce the carbon emissions by up to 70 percent, but it won’t require any extra materials, equipment or money, the team says. It’s all in the technology.

It Starts with Cement

Solidia cement uses the same materials and the same processes as ordinary Portland cement (OPC), just slightly tweaked. The limestone, clay and sand are used at different ratios (less limestone). Although Solidia cement can be fired in the same kilns, the smaller proportion of limestone allows for those kilns to fire at a reduced temperature (about 30 percent lower), which results in a 30 percent drop in greenhouse gases just from that slash in energy use.

Photos: Solidia Technologies

Solidia cement uses the same materials and the same processes as ordinary Portland cement, just slightly tweaked.

The production of cement is responsible for 5-7 percent of total global carbon emissions, ranking it was the world’s second-largest emitter, and while this technique reduces the emissions, it also makes a financial difference.

“You have to realize that for a cement kiln, 30 percent of their manufacturing costs is energy. So, a 30 percent reduction in that number has a dramatic impact on the cost of their product and their capability to be able to compete in the market globally,” said Schuler in an interview during the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2013.

And Now Concrete

When standard concrete is made, OPC reacts with water, but that’s not the case with Solidia. Riman patented a reactive hydrothermal liquid phase densification, which means that instead of reacting with water, Solidia cement reacts with CO2, which makes an even stronger bond than in regular concrete, the company says.

Since the curing process for Solidia absorbs CO2, it cuts down on the manufacturers footprint an additional 40 percent, and reduced water consumption by 80 percent. This curing process is also faster—less than a day— than the traditional 28-day period for conventional methods.

Riman patented a reactive hydrothermal liquid phase densification, which means that instead of reacting with water, Solidia cement reacts with CO2, which makes an even stronger bond than in regular cement.

Although Riman invented this technology decades ago, it’s only been recently introduced into the market. He told Rutgers Today that he was just waiting for the opportune moment, when the industry really needed to start paying attention to climate change. His second start-up, RRTC Inc., is developing advanced composite materials.

“The first thing we did was show that we could make a material that costs the same as conventional Portland cement. We developed processing technology that allows you to drop the technology right into the conventional world of concrete and cement without having to make major capital expenditures typically encountered when a technology is disruptive to the marketplace,” he said.

“When you can develop technologies that are safe and easy to use, it’s a game-changer—and that’s just one of the many areas that we’re interested in pursuing.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated Feb. 28 to clarify roles and impact of the technology.


Tagged categories: Building science; Carbon footprint; Cement; concrete; Eco-efficiency; Environmental Protection; Green building

Comment from Chander Patil, (2/28/2017, 7:59 AM)

What are properties? Since you use less lime does that mean less propensity to efflorescence?

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