• Tech Tech

Researchers make breakthrough in recycling old materials into new concrete — and it could have major implications

The team tested replacements for sand and measured the effects of different ratios.

The team tested replacements for sand and measured the effects of different ratios.

Photo Credit: Flinders University

A recent study documented another breakthrough in greener concrete, which marks one more step toward significantly cutting the carbon-intensive manufacture of the material.

Researchers from Australia's Flinders University and other international schools developed a high-performance concrete that is more sustainable than similar versions made with recycled materials, Tech Xplore reported in March.

The team tested replacements for sand, including ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBS) and fly ash, and measured the effects of different ratios on water absorption and compressive and flexural strengths.

It found that using 20% GGBS and 30% fly ash in concrete made with crushed glass sand and coarse recycled concrete aggregate resulted in a similar product to concrete made with natural sand.

"The developed technology can be used in different applications where natural sand or gravel are currently being used, such as road construction, landscaping, and infrastructure projects," lead author Aliakbar Gholampour said in a news release. "By integrating these recycled materials into construction and manufacturing practices, industries can contribute to a more sustainable built environment and circular economy."

Gholampour also noted that this would reduce gas pollution and the depletion of sand and other natural resources that are used as coarse aggregates.

Cement, a main ingredient in concrete, and concrete production is responsible for up to 9% of global pollution caused by humans, per Scientific American. That's because it is so widely used in the construction industry and takes so much energy to make, and that energy is usually powered by burning coal, oil, or gas.

While making cleaner cement and concrete is a good thing, the International Energy Agency highlighted the need for new technologies and innovations such as carbon capture to improve the industry by leaps and bounds instead of small steps.

That's why so many scientists, researchers, and others are working on developing their own breakthrough concretes. They've used coffee grounds, sugarcane waste, and even plastic trash. All these options and more are cleaner and cheaper than traditional concrete, and they are equally strong or durable if not more so.

These kinds of solutions to the climate crisis are vital, as corporations and governments must pull their weight to match individuals' actions, which may seem small but add up. You can start by simply talking to your family and friends about climate issues and ways to make a difference.

Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.

Cool Divider