Researchers Investigate Use of Sustainable Concrete Additives

University of Nebraska at Kearney researchers Mahmoud Shakouri, left, and Jim Vaux, right, work on a project that will determine whether corn stover ash can be mixed with cement to improve concrete’s durability. Photo courtesy of Corbey R. Dorsey, UNK Communications.

Aiming to strengthen corroding infrastructure and promote environmental sustainability, professors at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) (Kearney, NE, USA) are researching whetherconcrete can be made more durable by mixing it with corncobs and stover, which are the remaining stalks, leaves, and husks from corn harvests. The researchers certainly have plenty of raw material to work with—both corncobs and stover are abundant given that Nebraska ranks third among U.S. states in corn production, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.   

One project, led by UNK associate professors Mahmoud Shakouri and Jim Vaux, seeks to determine whether corncobs and stover can replace other materials used to heighten concrete’s durability and strength. If successful, the project may point to corncob and stover ash as viable alternatives to materials such as fly ash, which are produced in coal-fired power plants and whose supply has become limited due to increased environmental restrictions.  

According to Shakouri, the project is designed to address the “exponential need for production of sustainable construction materials” that can be used to repair and replace aging infrastructure. In particular, corncob ash might be one of those alternative materials that can be added to concrete in order to reduce its permeability and lessen its deterioration from chloride-based deicing agents. With corncob ash as a substitute, the researchers believe it will provide builders with an affordable, sustainable material that could also spur additional economic growth in Nebraska.  

In another project, Shakouri, Vaux, and two other researchers are investigating whether corn stover ash can replace coal combustion byproducts as a sustainable substitute in cement production. In so doing, the UNK researchers say that stover ash can offer the construction management industry an environmentally friendly building option that will make it easier to reduce corrosion issues in bridges, roads, and other infrastructure.   

More information on the UNK research projects is available here.

Source: UNK Communications, unknews.unk.edu