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26 April 2010

Latest weapon in global warming fight – 'green' cement made from rice

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Scientists are hoping to tackle global warming by creating a new environmentally friendly cement using waste materials such as rice husks

Producing cement dust accounts for about 5 per cent of global emissions, researchers claim. A specialist concrete unit at Dundee University aims to reduce carbon emissions in developing countries such as India and China.

Cement powder, a form of which was used by the Romans, is most commonly created in the form of Portland cement – named for its similarities to the local stone in Dorset. It is made by heating limestone with clay at high temperatures, a process that produces about a tonne of carbon dioxide for every tonne of cement made.

Researchers from the universities of Dundee and Bath are now working with colleagues in India to develop a new version. They are hoping to use waste materials, which have already been burnt, to mix with the concrete and so reduce burning time.

Cement expert Dr Kevin Paine said: "Reducing the emissions produced by it could make a real difference to climate change. India's infrastructure is developing rapidly and it is the second largest producer of cement in the world, after China."

He conceded there was no single perfect replacement for the current formula, but said local waste materials could be used. He said: "For example, in India you might burn rice husks to make silica to mix with the cement; in the UK you might use fly ash made from burning coal."

Led by Dundee University, the team of researchers have been working as part of a UK-India Education & Research Initiative (UKIERI) project. And the two universities are planning to host undergraduate students from India this summer as part of the partnership with UKIERI.

Dr Moray Newlands and Professor Ravindra Dhir, from the Concrete Technology Unit at Dundee and Dr Paine, from Bath's engineering department, recently returned from Punjab in India, where they presented their latest research and shared ideas.

Dr Newlands said the only way to make a meaningful impact was to work together. He said: "The scale of the problem facing infrastructure development in India and the UK means that collaboration between a number of institutions is the only way to reach our goals."


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