UCLA Engineers Awarded $1.5 Million to Create Eco-Friendly 3D-Printed Concrete

The most manufactured material in the world, concrete, is about to have a makeover.

Concrete is used far and wide, across all continents, and countries. It is considered the most manufactured material in the world. 

However, how it's currently made and used requires a high carbon footprint. With the growing awareness of reducing carbon footprints around the world, now engineers have been tasked with finding a way to create eco-friendly concrete. 

A UCLA team of engineers have just been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop 3D-printed concrete that will include carbon dioxide within its cement binder. 

RELATED: INNOVATIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE BUILDING

How is cement currently processed?

Cement, which is the part that binds concrete together, counts for eight percent of our man-made carbon footprint.

What the UCLA team will attempt to discover are different options for cement, and to incorporate carbon dioxide into the manufacturing process. The hope is that the final product will reduce the carbon footprint by 60% than the current products.

The team will be led by the principal investigator, Mathieu Bauchy, a computational materials scientist and assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering.

Bauchy said, "This grant allows us to leverage recent developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning to design a more sustainable product. We aim to help construction—a conservative, empiricism-based industry— evolve into a knowledge- and data-intensive industry of the 21st century."

UCLA Engineers Awarded $1.5 Million to Create Eco-Friendly 3D-Printed Concrete
Prototype samples of 3D-printed concrete. The cube is about 1 square inch in volume. Source: UCLA Samueli School of Engineering

Benefits of 3D concrete printing

Aside from the environmental benefits of printing 3D concrete, there are other positives for creating the material in this manner. 

It saves time. What would usually be a two-week job can be done in three to four days.

On top of that, the risks for injury on-site dramatically drops.

Moreover, it's economical with fewer building materials required, and less money spent. This brings us right back to the environmentally friendly aspect of 3D concrete printing - the impact is lessened.

Aside from all of these already fantastic reasons, 3D concrete printing also helps create some very funky housing shapes, much to an architect's delight!

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