Today, construction and building industries account for almost 40% of the total carbon emission worldwide. The production of cement which is necessary to create concrete is a highly polluting process and results in large amounts of waste.
Transporting and mixing concrete require a lot of energy while it is a material that cannot be recycled.
There have been many approaches to how the environmental footprint of construction can be mitigated including different methods in the production or cement of alternative materials to replace concrete.
A new approach suggests establishing new, greener structures using ground material and 3-D printed technology. According to the developers, it has a great potential of completely revolutionizing the construction industry.
The research team collected clayey soil samples that were merged together using an environmentally friendly additive. Initially, small scale cubes were produced to assess the performance of the 3-D printing procedure with respect to the input material.
In order to reinforce the material in terms of strength, scientists bonded together the microscopic clay layers so that they will not absorb water and expand. The strength of the material was increased by two times. The 3-D printing process was performed at a larger scale and was successful. This radical procedure in which soil can be converted into sustainable infrastructure seems to be vital.
The researchers presented their findings at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall 2020 Virtual Meeting & Expo. “Some researchers have turned to additive manufacturing, or building structures layer by layer, which is often done with a 3D printer. That advance has begun to transform this sector in terms of reducing waste, but the materials used in the process need to be sustainable as well,” Dr. Sarbajit Banerjee, the project’s principal investigator, stated.
Nevertheless, more progress has to be made so that the suggested process becomes sustainable. First of all, the 3D printed structures need to comply with the building safety regulations. The performance of the buildings must be assessed and, if found inadequate, new methods to reinforce the material should emerge. Another issue that needs to be studied is the potential of the material to insulate buildings.
According to Dr. Banerjee, the suggested technique does not aim at completely replacing concrete as a building material but it can facilitate construction processes in regions where concrete is not available. “We have worked on addressing the problem of building all-weather roads in the subarctic. (This endeavor) could one day be used beyond Earth, to create settlements on the moon or even Mars,” Dr. Banerjee, added.