Is recycled plastic the answer to stronger concrete structures?

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As a company that is a large supplier of concrete products, Danterr always investigate on the latest innovations across all areas of concrete in order to provide the best products and solutions to our customers.

Recently, we discovered that undergraduate students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had found a new way to make concrete (the second most widely used material on the planet after water) more stronger and more flexible.

The students found that, by exposing plastic flakes to small, harmless doses of gamma radiation and then pulverizing the flakes into a fine powder, they could mix the irradiated plastic with cement paste and fly ash to produce concrete that is up to 15 percent stronger than conventional concrete. The manufacturing of concrete generates about 4.5 percent of the world’s human-induced carbon dioxide emissions.

Replacing just a small portion of concrete with irradiated plastic could help reduce the cement industry’s global carbon footprint and reusing plastics as concrete additives could also redirect old water and soda bottles, the bulk of which would otherwise end up in a landfill. Danterr belives that this method is a greener option and is a huge step towards greener concrete.

“Our technology takes plastic out of the landfill, locks it up in concrete, and also uses less cement to make the concrete, which makes fewer carbon dioxide emissions” – Michael Short, assistant professor.

The students have knowledge of others who had tried to introduce plastic into cement mixtures, but the plastic weakened the resulting concrete. After further investigations, they found evidence that exposing plastic to doses of gamma radiation makes the material’s crystalline structure change in a way that the plastic becomes stronger, stiffer, and tougher.

From now on, the team is planning to experiment with different types of plastics, along with various doses of gamma radiation, to determine their effects on concrete. As for now, they have found that substituting about 1.5 percent of concrete with irradiated plastic can significantly improve the concrete’s strength. Even though it may seem like a small fraction, replacing even that amount of concrete could have a significant impact, and provide an environmentally friendly solution to the concrete industry in which Danterr strives for .

Short also states that “concrete produces about 4.5 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Take out 1.5 percent of that, and you’re already talking about 0.0675 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. That’s a huge amount of greenhouse gases in one fell swoop”.

Danterr is a leading supplier, distributor and manufacturer to the concrete and construction sectors. For more information about concrete, please visit our website or contact us here.