Wednesday, June 29, 2022
NewsEnvironmentHard news: new cement is crucial to solving UK’s construction crisis

Hard news: new cement is crucial to solving UK’s construction crisis

A University of Dundee expert has warned that the UK construction industry could be in trouble unless a new environmentally friendly cement can be produced.

Dr Moray Newlands from Dundee’s school of science and engineering warns that supply chain problems have further prompted an urgent need for the construction industry to meet net-zero.

He is leading a team of researchers in testing the performance characteristics of a new blend of cement that uses calcined clay as an alternative to fly ash and ground granulated blast furnace slag.

Dr Moray Newlands UoD
Dr Moray Newlands, the researcher leading the team.

Fly ash and ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBS) are becoming increasingly scarce and are produced at a significant cost to the environment.

Fly ash has been a staple ingredient in concrete, increasing its strength and durability.

However, as a by-product of coal, its supply has become increasingly scarce as the number of coal-fired power stations diminish.

Similarly, the reduction in blast furnace operations in the UK has decreased the amount of GGBS available for construction, prompting the need for new, more sustainable alternatives.

Dr Newlands believes that finding a new, sustainable formula for UK cement is crucial to ensure the long-term prosperity of the sector.

The research is part of a £1.4m project led by the Mineral Products Association and funded by UK Research and Innovations transforming foundation industries programme.

While supplies of clay are sustainable and prevalent throughout the UK, little is currently known of calcined clay’s performance characteristics in concrete.

The Dundee team will test the integrity of the calcined clay concretes, using state-of-the-art technology to ensure that it meets rigorous industry standards.

Dr Newlands said: “Low carbon cement and concrete in this country is heavily dependent on fly ash and GGBS.

“However, as well as a need to make the construction industry more sustainable, there are also long-standing supply chain issues with these materials.

He added: “Calcined clay is a material that has the potential to address these concerns, and is already prevalent in mainland Europe, but we know very little about UK clay and whether it will perform to the standards that are required for construction projects.”

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