Mixing It Up: Bulldogs Put Greener Concrete to the Test

June 1, 2016

UMD Civil Engineering students are testing four new eco-friendly concrete formulas on the UMD campus.

UMD students are testing four new concrete formulas against a traditional concrete mix in effort to find one with a smaller carbon footprint.

They’re scheduled to collaborate with UMD Facilities Management in pouring 15 slabs sidewalks throughout the week. The next pour will be on June 21 at 9 am outside of Voss Kovach Hall, 1305 Ordean Court.

Mary Christiansen, an assistant professor who’s overseeing the research, explains that traditional concrete has a high carbon footprint. “One of the key ingredients in concrete, Portland cement, releases harmful carbon dioxide into our atmosphere during production. Even though it’s a minimal amount per cubic yard, when you consider all of the concrete used around the world, it adds up.”

Christiansen and her students’ proposed solution is to reduce the level of Portland cement and replace it with ‘supplementary cementitious materials (SCM)’– eco-friendly materials– that can reduce the environmental impact of concrete production. The two main SCMs are Fly Ash (ash particles created in the burning of coal) and Silica Fume (a byproduct of silicon metal production).

There will be 15 slabs tested, three of which are traditional Portland cement and the rest are mixes of the alternative sources. The experiment will look at how different additives affect the strength and durability of the concrete. Tests will be conducted during the initial pour over the next five years.

The is goal is to identify the mix of alternative sources that produces the best result, as well as putting materials such as fly ash and silica fume, which would otherwise go to a dump, to good use.