Photo via Science Daily
Researchers have created an impressive new kind of concrete that's made out of waste products from coal plants--concrete that could both last for hundreds of years and reduce carbon emissions by 90%. The cement industry is one of the most polluting industries there is, contributing 5-8% of the world's greenhouse gases. This new 'geopolymer concrete' could cut a major chunk out of that. And the best part is, it's made from fly ash--one of the most common industrial byproducts on the planet.Right now, Portland cement is the standard for concrete--and it's the most widely produced man-made material on earth. It's also one of the most rough on the environment. Production of the stuff topped 2.6 billion tons last year, and the industry is growing by an average of 5% annually. Which means that the 5-8% of greenhouse gases it spews into the atmosphere is likely to grow too.
And that's where this new geopolymer concrete comes in. Over its life cycle, the new breed of concrete emits 90% less than its Portland brethren, and could last ten times as long, in addition to having a slew of other advantages. According to Science Daily, the fly ash concrete can:
produce a more durable infrastructure capable of design life measured in hundreds of years instead of tens, conserve hundreds of thousands of acres currently used for disposal of coal combustion products, and protect aquifers and surface bodies of fresh water via the elimination of fly ash disposal sites.Yes, it could reduce the need for fly ash disposal sites--like the one that burst open in Tennessee last December and spread toxic byproduct over hundreds of acres. There are now some 600 coal ash dump sites around the US--and that could all theoretically be turned into perfectly safe concrete.
Research is still being done on the geopolymer, but it the notion that the stuff can capture carbon dioxide, prevent the need for toxic dump sites, and be turned into a better, longer-lasting version of a highly in-demand product make it the best kind of triple threat. More than a few eyes will on this carbon-trapping concrete.
More on Concrete and Coal Plant Waste
EPA Reveals Locations of 44 Potentially Deadly Coal Ash Dumps
Gigacrete: An Alternative to Concrete
Overview of Recent Toxic Coal Ash Spills