Skip to comments.Researchers building stronger, greener concrete with biofuel byproducts
Posted on 03/14/2013 10:57:02 AM PDT by Red Badger
Kansas State University civil engineers are developing the right mix to reduce concrete's carbon footprint and make it stronger. Their innovative ingredient: biofuel byproducts.
"The idea is to use bioethanol production byproducts to produce a material to use in concrete as a partial replacement of cement," said Feraidon Ataie, doctoral student in civil engineering, Kabul, Afghanistan. "By using these materials we can reduce the carbon footprint of concrete materials." Concrete is made from three major components: portland cement, water and aggregate. The world uses nearly 7 billion cubic meters of concrete a year, making concrete the most-used industrial material after water, said Kyle Riding, assistant professor of civil engineering and Ataie's faculty mentor.
"Even though making concrete is less energy intensive than making steel or other building materials, we use so much of it that concrete production accounts for between 3 to 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions," Riding said. To reduce carbon dioxide emissions from concrete production, the researchers are studying environmentally friendly materials that can replace part of the portland cement used in concrete. They are finding success using the byproducts of biofuels made from corn stover, wheat straw and rice straw. "It is predicted that bioethanol production will increase in the future because of sustainability," Ataie said.
"As bioethanol production increases, the amount of the byproduct produced also increases. This byproduct can be used in concrete." The researchers are specifically looking at byproducts from production of cellulosic ethanol, which is biofuel produced from inedible material such as wood chips, wheat straw or other agricultural residue. Cellulosic ethanol is different from traditional bioethanol, which uses corn and grain to make biofuel. Corn ethanol's byproductcalled distiller's dried grainscan be used as cattle feed, but cellulosic ethanol's byproductcalled high-lignin residueis often perceived as less valuable.
"With the cellulosic ethanol process, you have leftover material that has lignin and some cellulose in it, but it's not really a feed material anymore," Riding said. "Your choices of how to use it are a lot lower. The most common choices would be to either burn it for electricity or dispose of the ash." When the researchers added the high-lignin ash byproduct to cement, the ash reacted chemically with the cement to make it stronger. The researchers tested the finished concrete material and found that replacing 20 percent of the cement with cellulosic material after burning increased the strength of the concrete by 32 percent.
"We have been working on applying viable biofuel pretreatments to materials to see if we can improve the behavior and use of ash and concrete," Riding said. "This has the potential to make biofuel manufacture more cost effective by better using all of the resources that are being wasted and getting value from otherwise wasteful material and leftover materials. It has the potential to improve the strength and durability of concrete. It benefits both industries." The research could greatly affect Kansas and other agricultural states that produce crops such as wheat and corn. After harvesting these crops, the leftover wheat straw and corn stover can be used for making cellulosic ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol byproducts then can be added to cement to strengthen concrete. "The utilization of this byproduct is important in both concrete materials and biofuel production," Ataie said.
"If you use this in concrete to increase strength and quality, then you add value to this byproduct rather than just landfilling it. If you add value to this byproduct, then it is a positive factor for the industry. It can help to reduce the cost of bioethanol production." The researchers have published some of their work in the American Society of Civil Engineer's Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering and are preparing several other publications. Ataie also was one of two Kansas State University graduate students named a winner at the 2013 Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka. His poster was titled "Utilization of high lignin residue ash (HLRA) in concrete materials."
Could use a high pressure wash and some paint, though......
Stoiciometrically, I fail to see how Ethanol is “greener”.
Ethanol (C2H6O) + O2 -> 2CO2 + 3H2O
NatGas (CH4) + 2O2 -> CO2 + 2H2O
Ethanol combustion emits 2x the CO2 of Natural Gas. It isn’t greener, it just isn’t derived from petroleum.
The Green Weenies think it is so, ergo it is so............
But biofuels - at least plant-based ones - come from organisms that consume CO2, so the question becomes whether or not the net CO2 production/consumption is superior to petroleum-based. So, it's not as clear-cut as just saying ethanol release twice the CO2 -- you need to account for the CO2 "scrubbed" from the atmosphere by the plants that the fuel is created from.
Fly ash is a by product of coal burning power plants, and has been used as an additive for concrete for ages.
No slight intended but I’ve seen those weasel words before.
We are currently required to account for “releasable” CO2 in the pipeline material that is delivered to the client. The client is required to account for CO2 released. Both numbers are summed into the GHG data-base.
One can safely say that the first NAAQS summary released for CO2 will be overstated by a factor of 2 (or more).
The only truly green concrete would use chunks of politician as aggregate.
Wrong, the amount of CO2 pulled from the atmosphere by the plants is released as soon as that plant dies and decomposes.In this case it releases all of the CO2 plus more, back into the atmosphere, therefore natural gas is greener than this sh**.
I’m a civil engineer living near Kansas State...so this article hs my interest.
First of all, portland cement is in fact ash. The ‘carbon footprint’ they are worried about is all the heat and energy used to heat calcium carbonate and leave ash behind. An interesting side story is that much of the portland cement used in the midwest is also made in Kansas...so this won’t exactly bring new industry to the state, as much as displace existing industry.
This reminds me of the use of flyash in cement. When we were ‘sold’ the idea of using flyash from the local power plant, we were told it was free...the only cost was trucking it away from the plant. But, in the name of being green, cities and counties started requiring it...making the flyash a commodity with a large cost. So I can easily see this going the same way.
The article mentions one parameter of concrete - strength. What they are probably talking about is ‘compressive strength’. There are several other parameters dealing with fexural strength, durability, and reaction to chemicals such as de-icing salts. Usually, when you improve one parameter, the others suffer...its a give and take design process. We don’t ‘need’ stronger concrete - we have strength figured out. What we ‘need’ is improvement in durability and resistance to chemicals. So this ‘stronger’ concrete isn’t a breakthrough or anything like that.
On to the ethanol. All this grassland everyone is talking about: I’ll put it this way - if the land grows grass, you generally put cattle on it. Just because this ethanol doesn’t burn our corn food, it does inhibit meat production. The other thing the article neglects to discuss is the quality of these grasses. If you go to the coop and buy seed for hay, you will get a product that is the result of decades of genetic engineering. The hay is resistant to mold, pests, rot etc. These characteristics make it a terrible candidate for ethanol - they want a product that breaks down very easily. So researchers at Kansas State are trying to ‘un-engineer’ our grasses. It doesn’t take alot of imagination to see how it would be hard to contain this style of grass to teh ethanol fields, and there will be cross breeding of grasses, and generally a threat to cattle production. Old fashioned blights that are unknown to us in modern times could make a revival. So, IMHO, this ‘grass’ strategy still threatens the food supply on multiple fronts.
It also takes alot of water to make ethanol - water rights are a huge thing in Kansas right now because of the drought - lets just say we don’t have any extra water. Water used to process ethanol will be water that couldn’t be used to irrigate corn.
Finally, ethanol is not a global product, or even a national one. It does not do well in pipelines - the water seperates out and it can cause rapid and serious corrosion to the pipes. So, mostly it is trucked around - and it can’t be efficiently moved out of the corn belt area. So we are processing this ethanol mostly for ourselves - its not like we are selling it abroad and bringing dollars into the area. So, its worth asking if we should really be using our water on a product that doesn’t really bring money into the area.
New ethanol plant construction is dead in this area. There was a big building boom, but now its ground to a halt. One of the people in the article optimistically projected that ethanol would pick back up. I doubt it. Natural gas seems to be the logical ‘fuel of the future’....ethanol is wishful thinking.