Materials

  • Making concrete “greener”

    Many factors determine the overall energy and environmental impact of concrete. Reducing the amount of portland cement, which reacts with water to bind all the sand, stone, and the other constituents of concrete as it hardens, provides the biggest opportunity. Portland cement manufacturing accounts for more than 5 percent of U.S. industrial carbon-dioxide emissions. In addition, the U.S. cement industry consumes 400 gigajoules of energy annually.

  • Building stronger, greener concrete with biofuel byproducts

    The world uses nearly seven billion cubic meters of concrete a year, making concrete the most-used industrial material after water. Even though making concrete is less energy intensive than making steel or other building materials, we use so much of it that concrete production accounts for between 3 to 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

  • Precious metal recovery technique ideal for rare Earth elements purification

    Researchers have come up with a new approach to make the recovery of high value precious metals faster and more economically viable. The new technique could be ideal for the purification of rare earth elements, which are vital commodities for ‘green’ technologies such as hybrid cars and novel batteries.

  • New source for rare earth elements: discarded consumer products

    In a new twist on the state’s mining history, a group of Idaho scientists will soon be crushing consumer electronics rather than rocks in a quest to recover precious materials. Two national labs  in the state will apply expertise gained in recycling fissionable material from nuclear fuel to separate rare earth metals and other critical materials from crushed consumer products.

  • Self-healing protective coating for concrete

    Scientists are reporting development of what they describe as the first self-healing protective coating for cracks in concrete, the world’s most widely used building material. The coating is inexpensive and environmentally friendly.

  • New internally cured concrete increases bridge life span

    Concrete is normally made by mixing portland cement with water, sand, and stone. In the curing or hardening process, water helps the concrete mixture gain strength by reacting with the cement. Traditionally, curing is promoted by adding water on top of the bridge deck surface. The new technology for internal curing provides additional water pockets inside the concrete, enhancing the reaction between the cement and water, which adds to strength and durability. This new technology is enabling Indiana to improve bridges in the state with a new “internally cured” high-performance concrete.

  • Novel nanosized antenna arrays key to effective harvesting of solar energy

    For years, scientists have studied the potential benefits of a new branch of solar energy technology that relies on incredibly small nanosized antenna arrays that are theoretically capable of harvesting more than 70 percent of the sun’s electromagnetic radiation and simultaneously converting it into usable electric power. A novel fabrication technique could provide the breakthrough technology scientists have been looking for to improve today’s solar energy systems.

  • Exploring asteroids for commercial metal harvesting

    Deep Space says that in a decade, it will be harvesting asteroids for metals and other building materials, to construct large communications platforms to replace communications satellites, and later solar power stations to beam carbon-free energy to consumers on Earth. “More than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year. They can be like the Iron Range of Minnesota was for the Detroit car industry last century,” says the company’s CEO.

  • Uranium mining debate divides Virginia

    In Virginia a fight has begun over whether to drill for uranium. Some feel the drilling, which would create about 1,000 jobs and bounty of tax revenue in addition to nuclear fuel, is important for a state whose main industries, such as tobacco and textiles, are failing. Those who oppose the drilling fear the contamination of drinking water in case of an accident, and a stigma from uranium which would deter people and businesses from moving to the area.

  • The humble jute serves as a sustainable reinforcement for concrete

    Fashionable people may turn up their noses at jute, the cheap fiber used to make burlap, gunny sacks, twine, and other common products, but new research is enhancing jute’s appeal as an inexpensive, sustainable reinforcement for mortar and concrete.

  • Engineers to build Australia’s first bushfire resistant straw house

    With Australia’s bushfire season fast approaching, construction of the first bushfire resistant straw bale house tested by engineers from CSIRO has begun in rural Victoria; the house is based on design principles that minimize environmental impact and it is set to withstand temperatures equal to that of a worst case bushfire scenario

  • Tunnel disaster shows age of Japan’s infrastructure, but there is no money to fix it

    The collapse of hundreds of concrete ceiling slabs in a tunnel just outside Tokyo has focused the attention of the Japanese on the country’s  has citizens calling for Japan to fix its aging infrastructure; the amounts of money needed for this refurbishing are large, and , but signs indicate that Japan may not have the money, as the public debt is already more than 200 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

  • Fabric for military uniforms to repel chemical and biological agents

    Military uniforms of the future may offer a new layer of critical protection to wearers; the fabric will be able to switch reversibly from a highly breathable state to a protective one in response to the presence of the environmental threat without the need for an external control system; in the protective state, the uniform material will block the chemical threat while maintaining a good breathability level

  • Cooler pavement materials could increase energy consumption in surrounding buildings

    A push to replace old, heat-trapping paving materials with new, cooler materials could actually lead to higher electricity bills for surrounding buildings; the new paving materials are designed to lower the overall temperature of the areas where they are used

  • Building material of millennium: Autoclave Aerated Concrete

    Although widespread rebuilding in the hard-hit New York metro region from Hurricane Sandy has not yet begun, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) scientists say when the hammers start swinging, it is time to look at autoclaved aerated concrete; the material, best known as AAC, has been heralded as the building material of the new millennium