Beets and carrots might lead to stronger and greener concrete

You’re not the only one who should eat your vegetables to become big and strong! Researchers from the EU-funded project B-SMART, led by Lancaster University (UK), found that the fibres of root vegetables like beets and carrots could help make concrete mixtures stronger and more eco-friendly.

The B-SMART project is looking for ways to make concrete and its main ingredient, cement, more environmentally friendly. It’s investigating how nanoplatelets extracted from the fibres of root vegetables can make concrete mixtures more robust and more environmentally friendly.

Initial tests have shown that by adding the nanoplatelets from sugar beet or carrot greatly enhances the mechanical properties of concrete. The new material is made by combining ordinary Portland cement with the nanoplatelets extracted from waste root vegetables from the food industry. Not only has the concrete superior mechanical properties than normal concrete, it also uses smaller amounts of cement. This significantly reduces both the energy consumption and CO2 emissions associated with cement manufacturing, which accounts for about 8 per cent of the global CO2 emissions.

Standart concrete is made with water, aggregate (gravel, rock or sand) and Portland cement, which functions as the binding agent. When the nanosized platelets of root vegetables are added to the mix, the amount of calcium silicate hydrate, the material giving concrete its strength, is increased. The concrete also has a denser microstructure, which helps to prevent corrosion and makes the material longer lasting.

Vegetable-enhanced concretes also outperform other cement additives, like graphene and carbon nanotubes. In addition, they are also cheaper to produce.

Aside from reinforcing new concrete, the B-SMART project, which stands for “Biomaterials derived from food waste as a green route for the design of eco-friendly, smart and high performance cementitious composites for the next generation multifunctional built infrastructure”, will also investigate the possibility of reinforcing existing concrete structures with very thin sheets made of vegetable nanoplatelets.

Photo: skeeze