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    Green Concrete – The Future Five Years Down The Line?

    In case you’ve been wondering about the origins of the pattern imprinted concrete you know and love, and where things might be going into the future, we thought we’d start this text with a little history lesson.

    Concrete has been used to build things for 2000 years or more – there is evidence that concrete was used in the Egyptian pyramids, and the Romans built their structures out of a mixture of quicklime, pozzolana and an aggregate of pumice. The secret of concrete was lost for several centuries after the fall of the Roman empire, but we can see it used in classic structures such as the Canal du Midi in Southern France, built in 1670, and with work of British engineer John Smitten, who pioneered the use of hydraulic lime in concrete, using pebbles and powdered brick as aggregate. He was active in the latter half of the 18th century (1750s onwards).

    Concrete as we know it today, using Portland cement, was first seen in around 1840.

    Concrete is a central feature of transport systems and urban architectures the world over. Its incredible popularity is due to the ready availability of its ingredients pretty much anywhere, and its incredible strength and durability. But can we improve on this tried and tested formula? For one thing, environmental concerns become more pressing every day in society. Concrete is already a fairly eco-friendly material, as it can be constructed from local materials, including waste materials from other industrial processes, it can absorb CO2, and its production requires far less land and processing compared to say, harvesting lumber.

    Nevertheless, concrete production does take its toll, as we use so much of it. Each tonne of concrete produced results in a tonne of CO2 being released into the atmosphere, and we make around 30 billion tonnes each year – this totals between 5 and 10% of all CO2 produced. Scientists at MIT in the US have been working hard to further improve concrete’s efficiency by studying it at a molecular level, allowing them to try millions of different combinations in their search for the perfect mixture.

    The mixture they have found is stronger and more durable, predicted to last around 20,000 years as opposed to 100 for traditional concrete. This will save us so much money in the long run, and have a hugely positive effect on the environment.

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