Cutting CO2 emissions is a critical goal for the concrete industry, and though it may seem counterintuitive, Craig Yeack writes adding small amounts of carbon, in the form of graphene, to concrete could help achieve that goal by improving the strength of concrete but so far scaling the practice has been elusive. First Graphene, however, is testing a process to add small amounts of graphene to clinker through a grinding agent that reduces the grinding time and improves the compressive and tensile strength of portland cement.



Sir Isaac Newton famously wrote, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” A giant in the natural sciences, Newton knew sustainable progress is only possible through building on incremental advances.

In November, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) took place in Glasgow, Scotland—a handful of hours away from Newton’s family home. During the conference, over 40 of the world’s leading cement and concrete manufacturers pledged to cut carbon emissions 25 percent by 2030, as part of a wider commitment to achieve net zero by 2050.

Reducing the CO2 footprint is key to the cement and concrete industry’s goal, yet in a scientific irony, adding a little bit of carbon to concrete will go a long way toward reaching that goal. Mike Bell, CEO of First Graphene Ltd. (https:/

/, cites numerous academic works over the past several decades that clearly indicate measurable strength improvements in concrete with the addition of various forms of carbon. However, the challenge is how to scale up from academia and practical applications.

This column has outlined the efforts of several innovative companies to combine carbon in various forms with ready mix concrete to help green up the ledger. While the consensus approach is direct carbon injection, it is critical to have even distribution of a very small amount of carbon in the bulk material to maintain uniform material properties.