A group of researchers from the British University of Lancaster has been using a domestic blender to mix plant root particles with concrete to see if they can produce a stronger and more environmentally friendly product. Stock Photo

Crispy and tasty, yes, but could carrots also strengthen cement and reduce carbon dioxide emissions for the construction industry?

A group of researchers from the British University of Lancaster has been using a domestic blender to mix plant root particles with concrete to see if they can produce a stronger and more environmentally friendly product.

The new material, made by combining ordinary cement with nano platelets extracted from carrots thrown by the food industry, is resistant to cracks and is up to 80 percent stronger than the conventional product.

A group of researchers from the British University of Lancaster has been using a domestic blender to mix plant root particles with concrete to see if they can produce a stronger and more environmentally friendly product. Stock Photo

A group of researchers from the British University of Lancaster has been using a domestic blender to mix plant root particles with concrete to see if they can produce a stronger and more environmentally friendly product. Stock Photo

"Composite materials are not only superior to current cement products in terms of mechanical properties and microstructure, but they also use smaller amounts of cement," said Professor Mohamed Saafi of the Engineering Department at the University of Lancaster.

"This significantly reduces the energy consumption and CO2 emissions associated with cement manufacturing."

The addition of carrots prevents any crack in the concrete, the team said. It also means that less cement is required, therefore, the overall production of carbon dioxide (CO2) is reduced.

According to the estimates of the International Energy Agency, cement is responsible for seven percent of total global CO2 emissions.

In proof of concept studies, the researchers found that the addition of carrot nano platelets resulted in a saving of 40 kg of cement and carbon dioxide per cubic meter of concrete.

"We found that it could increase concrete strength by 80 percent by using a small amount of this new material," Saafi told Reuters.

"Our preliminary results show that adding about half a kilogram of carrot nanomaterial will reduce approximately 10 kilograms of cement per cubic meter of concrete," says the researcher.

The team has also tested the sugar beet fibers in cement mixtures, with all their vegetables coming from food waste.

The addition of carrots prevents any crack in the concrete, the team said. It also means that less cement is required, therefore, the overall production of carbon dioxide (CO2) is reduced. Cement is responsible for seven percent of total global CO2 emissions. Stock Photo

The addition of carrots prevents any crack in the concrete, the team said. It also means that less cement is required, therefore, the overall production of carbon dioxide (CO2) is reduced. Cement is responsible for seven percent of total global CO2 emissions. Stock Photo

The addition of carrots prevents any crack in the concrete, the team said. It also means that less cement is required, therefore, the overall production of carbon dioxide (CO2) is reduced. Cement is responsible for seven percent of total global CO2 emissions. Stock Photo

CAN IT BE CONCRETE SOON TO HEAL FROM THE DAMAGE?

Researchers at Binghamton University have discovered that a fungus called Trichoderma reesei could be used to make concrete with self-healing properties.

When mixed with concrete, the fungus will remain inactive, but, once the first crack appears, the spore growth begins.

By mixing fungi and nutrients in the concrete, the growth of spores could lead to the production of calcium carbonate.

"When cracks occur, water and oxygen will find their way in. With enough water and oxygen, dormant fungal spores will germinate, grow and precipitate calcium carbonate to heal cracks," says Congrui Jin, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

"When the cracks are completely full and finally no more water or oxygen can enter, the fungi will re-form spores.

"As environmental conditions become favorable in later stages, the spores could be reawakened."

They will continue to test their blends together with their business partners, a Scottish company that manufactures paint using root vegetable fibers.

The researchers are also working on a way to adapt the existing concrete structures with the material to make them stronger without having to start from scratch.

So far, they are studying the use of thin sheets made of plant material that could be added as reinforcement.

These sheets will be more flexible than alternatives such as carbon fiber, which means that they will better protect against potentially harmful forces.

In the course of a two-year project, they will further investigate the capabilities of the material and look for ways to incorporate it into the construction industry.

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