Brief 

Researchers at the National University of Singapore have put forward a new formula for stronger concrete that not only removes a large amount of damaging materials from the equation, but makes use of upcycled waste clay at the same time.

 

Insight 

Given its status as the most widely-used manufactured material on Earth, reducing the huge environmental footprint of concrete would have significant consequences for the health of the planet.

Researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have put forward a new formula for stronger concrete that not only cuts a large amount of damaging materials from the equation, but makes use of upcycled waste clay at the same time.

In producing the more eco-friendly concrete, the NUS team started by taking aim at one of the primary ingredients in traditional forms of the material: sand.This acts as the filler that combines with cement and water to give concrete its bulk and strength, but as our demand for concrete structures has grown in line with sprawling megacities and towering skyscrapers, so too has the demand for sand.

A 2019 UN report revealed how increasing urbanization and infrastructure development has driven a three-fold increase in demand for sand over the last two decades, demonstrating how we are “spending our sand budget or sand over the last two decades, demonstrating how we are “spending our sand budget faster than we can produce it responsibly.”

With little natural sand to speak of and urban development continuing apace, the team of scientists in Singapore experimented with ways it could be replaced in the concrete mix by an alternative, more sustainable material in the form of waste clay sourced from excavation sites around the city-state.

 

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