Materials

World's first graphene-enhanced concrete slab poured in England

World's first graphene-enhance...
University of Manchester researchers Craig Dawson, Happiness Ijije and Lisa Scullion onsite as workers tend to the world's first graphene-enhanced concrete slab in the background
University of Manchester researchers Craig Dawson, Happiness Ijije and Lisa Scullion onsite as workers tend to the world's first graphene-enhanced concrete slab in the background
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A slab has been poured for a new gym building in England using graphene-enhanced concrete in a world first
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A slab has been poured for a new gym building in England using graphene-enhanced concrete in a world first
University of Manchester researchers Craig Dawson, Happiness Ijije and Lisa Scullion onsite as workers tend to the world's first graphene-enhanced concrete slab in the background
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University of Manchester researchers Craig Dawson, Happiness Ijije and Lisa Scullion onsite as workers tend to the world's first graphene-enhanced concrete slab in the background

As the mostly widely used material on Earth, concrete has a massive carbon footprint that scientists are working to chip away at in all sorts of ways. Recent research projects have demonstrated how the wonder material graphene could play a role in this and now we're seeing the first real-world deployment of the technology, with engineers using so-called "Concretene" to form the foundations of a new gym in the UK.

As the world's strongest artificial material, graphene may have a lot to offer the world of construction, among its many other potential uses. Scientists have previously found success incorporating it into the concrete manufacturing process to make the finished product stronger and more water-resistant, while one research project even demonstrated how this graphene can be recovered from old tires.

The freshly poured Concretene is the handiwork of scientists at the University of Manchester and construction firm Nationwide Engineering. To form the material, the team adds tiny amounts of graphene to water and cement, where it both acts as a mechanical support and offers an extra catalyst surface for the chemical reactions that turn the mix into the concrete paste. The end result is improved bonding at a microscopic scale, and material that is around 30 percent stronger than standard concrete.

“We have produced a graphene-based additive mixture that is non-disruptive at the point of use," says Dr Craig Dawson, from the University of Manchester. "That means we can dose our additive directly at the batching plant where the concrete is being produced as part of their existing system, so there’s no change to production or to the construction guys laying the floor."

The Concretene was used in an initial pour of a concrete floor slab for the new Southern Quarter gym near Stonehenge in England in early May, with a second pouring completing the foundation on Tuesday. This is the world's first graphene-enhanced concrete slab, and will make the gym a living laboratory as the building is completed and operated and Nationwide Engineering monitors the performance of the innovative material.

A slab has been poured for a new gym building in England using graphene-enhanced concrete in a world first
A slab has been poured for a new gym building in England using graphene-enhanced concrete in a world first

Concrete production accounts for around eight percent of global carbon emissions, and would stand behind only China and the US as an emitter if it were a country. Because Concretene is far stronger than traditional concrete, far less of it is required to bring the same structural strength to a building, which could result in a far smaller carbon footprint and cost.

Nationwide Engineering has crunched the numbers on this, and claims that if Concretene was used across the global supply chain it could shave as much as two percent off worldwide emissions. The material is more expensive to produce at around 5 percent additional cost, but because less of it is needed the company estimates that it can offer an overall saving of between 10 to 20 percent to the customer.

“We are thrilled to have developed and constructed this game-changing, graphene-enhanced concrete on a real project,” says Alex McDermott, co-founder of Nationwide Engineering. “Together with our partners at The University of Manchester’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre and structural engineers HBPW Consulting, we are rapidly evolving our knowledge and experience and are positioned for wider industry deployment through our construction frameworks, becoming the go-to company for graphene-enhanced concrete.”

Source: University of Manchester

14 comments
14 comments
stevendkaplan
Has there been any attempt to add graphene to hempcrete?
Devadas Menon
FWG Ltd UK (Kent) had demonstrated this a few years ago including graphene strengthened plastic. FWG also has developed a unique way to create graphene from easily available materials.
Poco Loco
This article is light on for details. Yes this new addtive increases strength of concrete by 30% and adds water proofing but are costs reduced? In most cases increase strenght is not required. So does it allow us to reducing the amount of cement and still maintain the required strenght and reduce costs? In the 70s concrete was specified by strength. The concrete supply companies reduced the quantity of cement in the mix and introduced an additive to the concrete mix to maintain its strength. Cement is a pacifier in the mix and helps protect the steel reinforcement from corrosion as well as being a strength component. Reduction of in cement in the mix resulted in the steel reinforcing corroding and the term concrete cancer is commonly used to describe this effect. Subsequently concrete was then specified by the minimum amount of cement as well as strenght to redress matters. So the article needs to flesh out how this new additive is beneficial.
1. Does it reduce costs?
2. Is the cement quantity reduced and if so how is the loss in passiving effect of reduced cement countered?
3. What other specific benifits does this now additive bring apart from waterproofing and how effective is the waterproofing. Please expand.
4. Does it reduce the curing time of concrete to aid construction.
Poco Loco
Further to my previous comment, I see that there was a link that answered some of my queries. There was a comment that this additive may allow slabs to be reduced from 4 inches to 2 inches. Engineering design is not just about strength. It has to provide stiffness too which determines the depth of a structural element. If you construct a 2 inch sudpended slab it may be so flexible that people would feel unsafe walking on it. What would dramatically change engineering would be if the additive could improve the tensile strenght of concrete sufficently to be used without the need of steel reinforcement.
paul314
Have they got instrumentation embedded in the new concrete? Or will they just be looking in now and then to see if it fails?
piperTom
It is said to be "30% stronger" than unenhanced concrete. But there are many aspects to "strength". Are we measuring compressive, tensile, shear, twisting strength? The one number given doesn't help evaluate the product. What's the prospect for long term resistance to cracking, the bane of all concrete planning?
SibylTheHeretic
Doesn't the strength of concrete increase with any added fiber? What about adding the fluff from ground up fiberglass, like old turbine blades? Surely that would be cheaper and also recycle something that at present cannot be recycled.
jerryd
Sorry but doesn't pass the smell test. Now FG fibers would really increase strength.
Ray6969
Has there ever been any studies done on the effects of long term exposure to graphene?
paleochocolate
sounds redundant