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Would You Like Some More Shrimp With That Cement?


United States Of America – As reported by Tina Hilding of the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture in the Washington State University Insider, putting nanoparticles from shrimp shells into cement paste makes the material substantially stronger.

Such a discovery has potential to reduce seafood waste and lower carbon emissions that arise from the production of concrete. Scientists at Washington University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory revealed their findings in their journal, Cement and Concrete Composites.

The research team crafted nanocrystals and nanofibers of chitin from waste shrimp cells. These particles are the second most abundant biopolymer in the world. When pieces of chitin were added to cement paste, the ending product was approximately 40% stronger than ordinary concrete. They explain that these chitin are 1,000 times smaller than a human hair.

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Somayeh Nassiri

Somayeh Nassiri, an associate professor at the University of California and a member of the California Pavement Research Center (UCPRC) led the research conducted at WSU, says that the concrete industry is being pressured to significantly decrease the amount of carbon dioxide being expelled into the atmosphere.

“we can help reduce the amount of required cement and lower the carbon emissions of concrete.” Somayeh Nassiri

Concrete globally serves as a crucial component in buildings, bridges, and roads. Cement is made with calcined lime and clay and mixed with sand, gravel, and water to create concrete. After water, concrete is the most used material on earth but cement production is incredibly carbon intensive. The production of cement requires fossil fuels to reach a temperature of 1500 degrees Celsius.

Limestone, which is involved in the production, also decomposes and contributes to additional carbon dioxide. About 15% of industrial energy consumption and 5% of the total worldwide greenhouse gas emissions comes as a result of cement manufacturing. Such high consumption of cement is also due to the repairing and replacing of concrete cracks.

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As for the fishing industry, seafood waste is a universal issue. Each year, 6-8 million pounds of waste is casted into the sea while some circular amounts are a natural need these processes give us more insight and control of future outcomes or balancing.

“dealing with climate change through the circular economy, we want to use waste materials as much as possible.”Hui Li, a Research Assistant Professor at WSU’s Composite Materials and Engineering Center

Researchers have previously tried to tackle the issue of carbon emission from concrete production. Scientists have attempted to strengthen concrete with the biopolymer, cellulose. Discovery revealed that the cellulose additives would occasionally bolster concrete while other times, it would not. The reasoning as to why remains a mystery.

The Washington State University team studied nanofibers of chitin at the nanoscale. Crab, shrimp, and lobster shells are comprised of about 20-30% chitin with the remainder being a calcium carbonate. Chitin, unlike cellulose, has an additional set of atoms. This characteristic allows researchers to control the charge on the surface of the molecules and how they behave in cement paste.

“the chitin nanoparticles repel individual cement particles enough so that it changes the hydration properties of the cement particle within the system.” WSU Professor Michael Wolcott

The addition of chitin enhanced the consistency, hardening time, strength, and durability of cement. A 40% increase in strength and a 12% improvement in the ability to compress it was recorded. Wolcott explains that if the amount of material used can be reduced but yet remain mechanically and structurally the same with a double lifetime then, “you’re able to significantly reduce the carbon emissions of the built environment.”

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Prof. Michael Wolcott

The WSU research group is now hoping to begin producing the additive at a larger scale. The team’s next step is to create the same benefits seen in cement in concrete. Other scientists across the nation are alslooking into new methodology which may make cement more sustainable. At the University of Colorado-Boulder, researchers announced that they have created a carbon-neutral variety from algae. The study is funded by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program.

Photo Credits: WSU, UC DAVIS

Source WSU

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