The use of graphene-enhanced cement has the potential to lower the CO2 footprint in construction via a route to stronger, more durable concrete, by reducing clinker demand.
The Office of National Statistics estimates that the UK's construction sector accounts for 6.1% of GDP. Cement and concrete production are significant contributors to most construction processes, thereby making it very crucial for job creation. The cement subsector uniquely cuts across the manufacturing and £18bn-GDP Mineral Products sector that directly employs 74,000 people in addition to 3.5m indirect jobs. As valuable as the impact of this sector is to national and global development, its impact on energy consumption (60-70% of cement production cost is expended on energy) and greenhouse gas emissions is immense.
The emission from the UK's construction industry was 13 million metric tonnes in 2019 and has continuously increased since 1990. Similarly, greenhouse gas emissions attributable to UK's cement manufacturing activities have steadily risen from 3.2 million metric tonnes in 2007 to 4.4 million metric tonnes in 2019. With the current global push for more stringent legislations on energy efficiency, the profitability as well as sustainability of foundation industries, such as cement would significantly depend on how much they lower their energy consumption and carbon footprints. While several initiatives including carbon capturing technologies are currently explored within the cement industry, questions related to technical complexity and cost implications still linger. Therefore, the current project will explore the application of graphene within the construction sector and its associated supply chain (especially cement manufacturing), to improve energy efficiency, raw material optimisation and the overall performance of cement/concrete.
Preliminary investigations have already depicted the ability of graphene to significantly enhance concrete strength, but such studies mainly focused on the user end (e.g., construction sites) and less on the cement manufacturing process. Owing to the minute quantity of graphene required per weight, the issues surrounding the injection and dispersion of graphene within large quantities of cement have also not been investigated. Therefore, we will aim to develop a novel "high performance Graphene Enhanced cement" (GR-CEM) product. The GR-CEM will offer the opportunity to use lower grades of cement manufacturing raw materials (e.g., under burnt/low temperature clinker, raw limestone, etc.) and therefore contributing to mitigating the carbon impacts from cement manufacturing. The project will thus take into account the development of an optimised graphene dispersion and injection system, the economic viability of GR-CEM as well as its carbon and health and safety impact.
First Graphene Limited has conducted a study with the University of Wollongong (Australia) and an Australian domestic water, sewerage and drainage statutory authority, to investigate the use of pristine graphene to enhance durability of concrete and mortar in corrosive water environments.
We have shown that our formulation in concrete and mortar systems enhances 28-day compressive strength by 10 – 20%. We have also shown a 60% uplift in sulphate resistant.
This is a route to enhanced products that will have an environmental impact, by increasing durability and reducing cement demand.
We have worked with Changemakers 3D, who have unique access to 3D printing capabilities, to show that we can 3D print graphene enhanced structures in a live industrial environment.
Therefore, we have a scaled up, readily deployable, novel solution that reduce CO2 emissions in construction - assisting with the journey to Net Zero.
First Graphene's target customers are cement manufacturers who would use our graphene directly in their process. We are looking for opportunities to use our materials in Civil Engineering Infrastructure projects, working alongside a range of engaged partners.