Reducing Concrete's Carbon Footprint (and Gaining Durability)

In a quest to make concrete more durable and sustainable, an international team of geologists and engineers has found inspiration in the ancient Romans, whose massive concrete structures have withstood the elements for more than 2,000 years.

They are investigating whether volcanic ash would be a good, large-volume substitute in countries without easy access to fly ash, an industrial waste product from the burning of coal that is commonly used to produce modern, green concrete.

“There is not enough fly ash in this world to replace half of the Portland cement being used,” said Monteiro. “Many countries don’t have fly ash, so the idea is to find alternative, local materials that will work, including the kind of volcanic ash that Romans used. Using these alternatives could replace 40 percent of the world’s demand for Portland cement.”

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