Carrots and concrete
When you think of root vegetables the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t strength, even after a cursory battle trying to chop a sweet potato. However new research being carried out by a team at Lancaster University has found that carrots and other root vegetables actually hold "nano platelets" in their fibres which, the team say, can significantly improve the strength of concrete.
As well as strengthening concrete in a cost effective way, using vegetables like carrots and beets in cement mixtures is far more eco-friendly and could lead to a reduction in nasty carbon emissions released in cement production. Research has shown that the current cement manufacturing process is accountable for 8% of total CO2 emissions globally. When we couple this with the growing demand for concrete in order to keep up with building demand, a worrying picture emerges should we not find a more green alternative like that of root vegetable nanoparticles.
Interestingly the initial research has shown that the root vegetable nano platelets are actually far more efficient to currently used additives including graphene and carbon nanotubes. The team also reported that they used 40kg less Portland cement per cubic metre of concrete when using the root vegetable additives. With this in mind it is hoped that using additives from carrots and sugar beet would reduce the overall amount of concrete used in the construction industry.
Lead researcher of the project and engineering professor Mohamed Saafi explains: "These novel cement nanocomposites are made by combining ordinary Portland cement with nano platelets extracted from waste root vegetables taken from the food industry," He added, "The composites are not only superior to current cement products in terms of mechanical and microstructure properties but also use smaller amounts of cement. This significantly reduces both the energy consumption and CO2 emissions associated with cement manufacturing."
To support further research the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme has pledged £195,000 in funding for the team at Lancaster University.