Graphene-doped concrete cuts construction emissions

A new type of concrete infused with graphene is claimed to help reduce the overall amount of concrete required for construction, thereby cutting emissions.

Known as ‘Concretene’, it was developed by researchers at the University of Manchester in partnership with construction firm Nationwide Engineering. Although five per cent more expensive than traditional concrete, the material is said to significantly reduce the amount of material and steel reinforcement required during construction, which translates to a 10-20 per cent saving for customers.

According to its developers, the small amounts of graphene in the material make Concretene 30 per cent stronger than standard concrete, meaning less is needed to achieve the equivalent structural performance, cutting carbon footprint and costs. Reducing requirements for steel reinforcement also simplifies and speeds up construction. In what’s claimed as a world-first, Concretene was used to lay the floor slab of a new gym in Amesbury, Wiltshire, reducing the amount of concrete overall by 30 per cent and completely eliminating the need for steel support.

“We are thrilled to have developed and constructed this game-changing, graphene-enhanced concrete on a real project,” said Manchester alumnus Alex McDermott, co-founder and managing director of Nationwide Engineering.

“Together with our partners at the University of Manchester’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre and structural engineers HBPW Consulting, we are rapidly evolving our knowledge and experience and are positioned for wider industry deployment through our construction frameworks, becoming the go-to company for graphene-enhanced concrete.”

The graphene in the new building material acts as a mechanical support and as a catalyst surface for the initial hydration reaction in the concrete, leading to better bonding at microscopic scale and giving the finished product improved strength, durability and corrosion resistance. According to its developers, Concretene can be used just like standard concrete, requiring no new equipment or specialist training.

“We have produced a graphene-based additive mixture that is non-disruptive at the point of use,” said Dr Craig Dawson, application manager at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre.

“That means we can dose our additive directly at the batching plant where the concrete is being produced as part of their existing system, so there’s no change to production or to the construction guys laying the floor.

“We can tailor this approach to use any supplier’s graphene, so we are not beholden to a single supplier. This makes Concretene a more viable proposition as there is increased security of supply.”