Richard Riman, an engineering and materials science professor at Rutgers University, has created an eco-friendly, lightweight concrete using reactive hydrothermal liquid-phase densification (rHLPD), according to Phys.org, which notes that the process models generative design behavior of shellfish to create organic ceramics while submersed in water.
The technology enables composite material reactions at lower temperatures and can be applied to pure ceramics and ceramic metallic and polymer compounds for manufacturing building materials for construction and infrastructure.
Riman’s formulation reduces cement's and concrete's carbon footprint by 70%. It has been formed into cinder blocks, roofing tiles and hollow core slabs. If his process can scale — he’s looking to commercialize under the brand name Solidia Technologies Inc. — it could further the development of green alternatives to supply the $1 trillion global market for concrete.
The process to make concrete manufacture less energy intensive continues, specifically around cement production, which is the key ingredient and primary driver of concrete's sizeable environmental impact, Construction Dive reported in September.
As with Riman's research, much of the development around cement and concrete today focuses on CO2 sequestration. The aggregate created by Riman’s team sequesters CO2 within the material, but additional research is needed to determine how much can be absorbed. Uncertain as well is whether the amount of CO2 emitted in traditional cement manufacturing could counter or even outweigh the sequestering properties of the material.
Working with concrete, too, requires specialized knowledge to avoid excess waste both as a building goes up and as it comes down. Middle Tennessee State University, in Nashville, is incorporating related coursework into its curriculum with the formation of The School of Concrete and Construction Management, which merges the school's concrete and construction programs.