Why graphene could be the ‘Next Big Thing’ for concrete

By Liam Critchley

Graphene is a material used in a number of applications and market sectors, and its use in new areas is continually growing. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with some experts in the graphene field, from global companies, to prestigious researchers, and independent graphene consultants to find out what the key graphene application areas are to look out for in the next few years.

dioxide emissions, which is not ideal given its widespread use and the societal drive to reduce carbon emissions.

This is the third major way in which graphene can help to improve concrete. All the properties that graphene introduces have a knock-on effect. Increasing the tensile strength of the concrete by a significant amount means that a lot less material can be used over traditional methods, and this directly contributes to a lower carbon footprint (due to a lower volume of material) because less energy is required to make, install and cure the concrete material. It’s thought that by simply reducing the material volume of concrete using graphene, the carbon footprint of concrete could be reduced by at least 2%.

Financially viable option

The three key benefits above could be enough in themselves to instigate a change in a well- established market. However, the added benefits would not be utilized in an industry where the production of such large volumes of material


ne area of graphene that has been widely spoken throughout all those exchanges is the potential for using graphene in concrete — one of the world’s most used materials. There are a number of reasons why, and many of these reasons could lead to graphene being used widely in concrete materials, with the potential of completely revolutionizing a very well-established industry. Here, I’m going to detail why graphene has so much potential in concrete and what beneficial effects can be realized with creating graphene- enhanced concrete.

Increased physical properties

One of the main reasons that concrete is used (aside from its low cost) is that it is a very strong and durable material that can withstand large amounts of


abrasion and physical stress. These are the reasons why concrete is used in the majority of buildings and other large structures around the world. While the physical properties of concrete are good, they can fail, and manufacturers are always looking to create better concrete materials—although many to date don’t fall in line with the financial requirements for concrete (ie still being of relatively low cost). This is where graphene can come in. Graphene is a financially viable option (mentioned more below) and it can be used to induce a number of beneficial physical properties into the concrete. This includes improving the tensile strength of the concrete by up to 25% and improving the compressive strength by up to 35% — which in turn increases the compression modulus of the

concrete. Aside from increasing the strength of concrete, the addition of graphene also makes the concrete up to four times more water-resistant.These are significant physical improvements that can improve the performance and longevity of concrete materials without much graphene needing to be added.

Reduction in materials

About four billion tonnes of cement are produced each year, making it the most-used man-made resource in the world. The increased strength of graphene-enhanced concrete is very important, because if the material is that much stronger, it means that not as much material is required to perform the same function. Many of the studies and structures created to date have shown that up to 33% less material is needed

Concrete: the essential material for the construction industry. Its performance is increasingly being improved, not least through the use of the nano- scale carbon material graphene as a concrete additive.

when graphene is added. Even though there is less material used, the structures created using less material still show the same structural properties and durability that conventional concrete structures show. Essentially, the addition of graphene to concrete means you can do the same, if not more, with less.

Reduction in carbon footprint Behind water, concrete is the second most consumed resource on Earth. It is also responsible for about 8% of the world’s carbon

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would cost too much for everyday use. Certainly, some people would pay for better structures, but not all would be able to, especially in poorer areas.

About four billion tonnes of cement are produced each year, making it the most-used man- made resource in the world. The increased strength of graphene- enhanced concrete is very important, because if the material is that much stronger, it means that not as much material is required to perform the same function.

One of the real advantages in using graphene in concrete (aside from the added benefits) is that only 0.1 weight percent (wt%) of grapheme needs to be added into concrete to reap these benefits. So, while graphene is typically quite expensive, it is used in such low amounts that it does not entail much additional cost to use it, making it financially viable for most people. There are already a number of graphene manufacturers around the world that have been creating graphene-enhanced concrete materials, with many working with the concrete industry to showcase the potential of graphene in concrete materials.

In summary

What was once an idea that was utilized in academia has now become a financially viable option that could impact the most common man-made material in the world and change the materials that are used to build our modern- day society. There are even buildings standing at the moment that have graphene-enhanced concrete in them, so it is likely that it will only take a few more years to


see widespread adoption of these advanced construction materials. Integrating graphene into concrete solves the current challenges within the modern-day construction industry of trying to do more with less. The integration of graphene into concrete has huge potential for not only reducing the amount of material needed, it also makes the concrete stronger and can directly contribute to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions — of which concrete is a large emitter. Many would be led to think that graphene would be too expensive for a typically low-cost material application, but it is made economically feasible because only a very small amount of graphene is actually needed to induce such benefits.

Author: Liam Critchley Freelance Chemistry and Nanotechnology Writer E: liam_critchley@hotmail. com

in: https://www.linkedin. com/in/liam-critchley- nanowriter/ t: nanowriter

Graphene, an allotrope of carbon consisting of a single layer of atoms arranged in a two-dimensional array. The material is increasingly being used in nanotechnology applications, including as an additive for concrete to provide an even higher-performance material for use in the construction industry.

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(Image © / schwartstock)

(Image © / ktsimage)

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