In the crusade to cut global CO2 emissions, we tend look to power plants, cars, and manufacturing. Nowadays, our building materials are also garnering attention, and researchers from Kansas State University have developed a type of concrete made from biofuel waste that has a lower carbon footprint than conventional concrete. The world uses about 7 billion cubic meters of the mixture each year, making it the most utilized industrial material after water. Taking advantage of the byproducts from biofuel production such as corn stover, wheat straw, and rice straw, the team was able to create a stronger concrete and save excess material from ending up in the landfill.

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Traditional concrete is made up of aggregate, water, and Portland cement. The researchers at Kansas State University were able to replace 20 percent of portland cement with byproducts from cellulosic ethanol production, a process which uses inedible materials such as wood chips, wheat straw, and other agricultural waste. Unlike corn ethanol, the byproducts of which can be used as cattle feed, cellulosic ethanol creates high-lignin residue that can only be burned for electricity or thrown away as ash. By adding high-lignin ash to the cement and water, the team was actually able to increase the strength and durability of the concrete by 32 percent.

“The utilization of this byproduct is important in both concrete materials and biofuel production,” said Feraidon Ataie, a doctoral candidate in civil engineering. “If you use this in concrete to increase strength and quality, then you add value to this byproduct rather than just landfilling it. If you add value to this byproduct, then it is a positive factor for the industry. It can help to reduce the cost of bioethanol production.”

Seeing as normal concrete accounts for 3 to 8 percent of global CO2 emissions, the newly-developed formula could not only help cut greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming, but it could also help find an avenue for biofuel waste once the industry expands. The results of the group’s investigations have been published in the 2013 Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka, and the team was awarded a $210,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

+ Kansas State University

Via Clean Technica

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