Cellulose Nanocrystal-Infused Concrete Bound for CA Bridge


Researchers based out of Purdue University recently revealed plans to use concrete infused with microscopic-sized nanocrystals from wood in the construction of a California bridge.

According to Purdue University, the research team had been working with cellulose nanocrystals to find the best mixture to strengthen concrete. Cellulose nanocrystals are generated by the paper, bioenergy, agriculture and pulp industries.

Nanocrystals in Concrete

The catalyst behind this concrete-strengthening agent is a cellulose nanocrystal about 100 nanometers long and 5 nanometers wide, which can only be seen by an electron microscope. These nanocrystals make the concrete stronger by a chemical reaction that increases the hydration of the cement particles; this in turn makes the concrete stronger, according to researchers.

Pablo Zavattieri, a professor in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering, noted that the cellulose nanocrystals provide a way for the water to go where it is needed. Not all cement particles are hydrated when the concrete is mixed, which limits the strength of the concrete.

The cellulose nanocrystals also reportedly make the substrate more efficient, given that less mass is needed to make something that’s reportedly just as strong.

The modified concrete mixture also sets faster, according to the researchers, which means less cure time needed when using the substrate in bridge construction and oil drilling.

Moving forward, Purdue is working in collaboration with Oregon State University, sponsor P3Nano and others to prepare for building a bridge in California. The exact bridge where the mixture will be used has not yet been determined, however.

Previous Research

Purdue researchers started looking into cellulose a decade ago in collaboration with Robert Moon, a researcher from the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory. The Forest Service was searching for ways to use diseased, damaged and small-diameter logs.

The challenge initially stemmed from determining where the water-soluble cellulose nanocrystals could be used. Jeffrey Youngblood, a Purdue professor of materials engineering, said the idea of using it in concrete came to him while digging a posthole and preparing the concrete to pour.

Research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.


Tagged categories: Bridges; concrete; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Renewable raw materials; Research and development

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