The new concrete developed using graphene by experts from the University of Exeter. Source: Dimitar Dimov/University of ExeterThe new concrete developed using graphene by experts from the University of Exeter. Source: Dimitar Dimov/University of Exeter

Concrete seems like a pretty strong and durable substance. What is more difficult to break than concrete? New developments from researchers at the University of Exeter have created a new form of concrete that is more durable and it’s good for the environment. The new concrete is created out of graphene and it could potentially change the construction industry.

To create the graphene-based concrete, the team created a pioneering technique that incorporates graphene into today’s concrete production with nanoengineering technology. The resulting material is twice as strong and four times more resistant than the concrete currently being produced.

The carbon footprint of the new concrete’s production is radically smaller than traditional concrete production and creates a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly product. Researchers say that the new concrete is just the first step in putting nanomaterials into concrete.

"Our cities face a growing pressure from global challenges on pollution, sustainable urbanization, and resilience to catastrophic natural events, amongst others. This new composite material is an absolute game-changer in terms of reinforcing traditional concrete to meets these needs. Not only is it stronger and more durable, but it is also more resistant to water, making it uniquely suitable for construction in areas which require maintenance work and are difficult to be accessed,” said Professor Monica Cracuian, co-author of the paper and a professor from Exeter. “Yet perhaps more importantly, by including graphene we can reduce the amount of material required to make concrete by around 50 percent — leading to a significant reduction of 446kg/tonne of the carbon emissions. This unprecedented range of functionalities and properties uncovered are an important step in encouraging a more sustainable, environmentally friendly construction industry worldwide."

There have been previous studies using nanotechnology to modify cement, one of the main ingredients in concrete, but this is the first study to focus on using nanotechnology in concrete.

The new concrete production method suspends atomically thin graphene in water with high yield and no defects. This method is inexpensive and meets current large-scale manufacturing requirements.

According to lead author Dimitar Dimov from the University of Exeter: "This ground-breaking research is important as it can be applied to large-scale manufacturing and construction. The industry has to be modernized by incorporating not only off-site manufacturing but innovative new materials as well. Finding greener ways to build is a crucial step forward in reducing carbon emissions around the world and to help protect our environment as much as possible. It is the first step, but a crucial step in the right direction to make a more sustainable construction industry for the future."

The paper on this new concrete production method was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.