Brief 

Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing bendable concrete that is strong and earthquake-resistant. The researchers inject carbon dioxide into the concrete, which contains a new composite that reacts with CO2 to form minerals in the mixture.

 

Insight

Concrete is quite literally the foundation of our modern infrastructure — but it comes at a cost. The concrete industry is one of the most environmentally damaging in the world, accounting for 9% of total global CO2 emissions in 2018.

Naturally, scientists are exploring other alternatives in order to offset this huge carbon footprint. One such project from the University of Michigan dramatically lowers CO2 emissions by actually injecting the greenhouse gas into the concrete, converting it into a useful mineral. The resulting concrete is also bendable, leading to less brittle structures that require fewer materials, thereby further reducing emissions.

The formula for concrete is very simple. You only have to mix aggregates — rocks and sand — along with cement and water in the proper amount. Recipes will vary depending on the type of structure (i.e. bridges versus buildings), but that’s about it.

Nearly 80% of concrete’s carbon emissions come from cement, which accounts for about 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter in the world — not far behind China and the US. It contributes more CO2 than aviation fuel (2.5%) and is not far behind the global agriculture business (12%).

 

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