Indian Scientists Create Sand Replacement Material

Indian scientists have unveiled a groundbreaking solution to address the growing crisis of natural sand scarcity in the construction industry, a problem estimated to reach a global deficit of 50 billion tons by 2030 according to UN Environment Programme. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science’s Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST) in Bengaluru have discovered a method to utilize carbon dioxide (CO2)-treated construction waste as a replacement for sand in mortar. This innovative approach not only tackles the environmental concerns associated with excessive sand mining but also offers a sustainable path for managing the ever-growing mountain of construction debris, estimated at 2 billion tons annually according to a Down to Earth report.

CO2 Capture for Stronger, Eco-Friendly Construction Materials

The research team, led by Assistant Professor Souradeep Gupta, found that treating construction waste with CO2 and then curing the mortar in a CO2-rich environment significantly enhances the material’s engineering properties. This process accelerates the development of the mortar’s strength, with studies indicating a 20-22% increase in compressive strength compared to traditional sand-based mortar. This translates to potentially sturdier and more durable buildings with a lower environmental footprint.

Dual Benefit: Reducing Reliance on Sand and Carbon Sequestration

The use of CO2-treated construction waste offers a double win for the environment. Firstly, it reduces the dependence on natural sand, a resource facing depletion due to excessive mining activities. Sand mining disrupts ecosystems, destroys riverbeds, and alters water flow patterns, impacting everything from fish populations to local communities dependent on waterways. By providing a viable alternative that could replace up to 25% to 50% of fine aggregates in mortar according to Professor Gupta’s research, this technology can help mitigate these environmental consequences.

Secondly, the process acts as a form of carbon capture and storage (CCS). By utilizing CO2 in the treatment process, the technology contributes to mitigating the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with India’s national decarbonization goals. Studies suggest the potential to capture significant amounts of CO2, offering a valuable tool in the fight against climate change while simultaneously solving a pressing issue in the construction industry.

Beyond Sand Replacement: Stabilizing Clay Soil with CO2

Professor Gupta’s research extends beyond just finding substitutes for sand. His lab has also investigated the effectiveness of injecting CO2 gas into clayey soil, a common byproduct of excavation that often requires additional treatment for stabilization. The findings suggest that CO2 treatment improves the stabilization of clay when combined with cement and lime. This translates to a reduction in the surface area, pore volume, and lime reactivity of clay, leading to improved overall performance of the material. This could have significant implications for construction projects on sites with abundant clay soil, potentially reducing costs associated with traditional soil stabilization techniques and minimizing the need for additional resources.

Further Research and Potential Applications

While the initial research results are promising, further studies are needed to assess the long-term durability and performance of CO2-treated construction waste in large-scale construction projects. Additionally, optimizing the CO2 capture and treatment processes for scalability and cost-effectiveness will be crucial for widespread adoption in the construction sector. Collaboration with industry partners will be essential to bring this technology to market and realize its full potential.

This breakthrough development by Indian scientists has the potential to revolutionize the construction industry. By offering a sustainable alternative to natural sand and promoting carbon capture, this technology paves the way for a more eco-friendly and resource-efficient future for building practices. The potential economic benefits, coupled with the environmental advantages, make this a development to watch closely, with the potential to address a global challenge and create a more sustainable construction sector.

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