3D printed materials replace reinforced concrete


If you had to guess which industry emits the most carbon dioxide, you could say transportation, fashion, or agriculture. But, surprisingly, concrete ranks among the best. It’s so bad that The Guardian double it is the “most destructive material on earth”, as it emits an insane amount of CO2. The concrete industry is responsible for 8% of all carbon emissions – if the concrete industry were a country, it would rank third in emissions behind China and the United States

And yet, reinforced concrete is used in the construction of millions of new buildings around the world.

Credit: Studio Narro

But researchers have found a way to reduce its potency. A team of architects and engineers have revealed a strategy to reduce steel and concrete in a demonstration footbridge in Venice – which looks suspiciously like a giant spinner.

The solution: remove the reinforcement.

The problem with concrete: Concrete is the most consumed material in the world, second only in water. The material is ubiquitous because it has many practical uses – from building houses to forging dams that protect against storm surges. Reinforced concrete, concrete with embedded steel, is the basis of the infrastructure of many essential industries: education, health care, transportation, government, etc. It would be almost impossible to live without reinforced concrete.

Concrete is the most consumed material in the world, just behind water.

But the 2.8 billion tons of CO2 emitted by concrete is just behind the total emissions of China or the United States – the two countries that emit the most CO2, reports Yale Environment 360.

Beyond emissions, concrete thwarts natural habitats, blankets and smothers ecosystems, and heats cities. We produce more concrete every two years than plastic produced in the last 60 years. Planet Earth becomes a concrete world. And the steel used for reinforcement and the cement that binds the concrete together are at the heart of the problem.

The 2.8 billion tons of CO2 emitted by concrete is just behind the total emissions of China or the United States, the two countries that emit the most CO2.

The solution: A team from Zaha Hadid Architects, ETH Zurich and the Block Research Group decided to remove the reinforcement to build their arched pedestrian bridge approximately 39×52 feet.

While their construction methods are reminiscent of classic masonry arch construction, their materials are novel, with angled blocks arranged in an arch. They 3D printed concrete and applied it at right angles instead of pouring it horizontally. In doing so, they built a strong bridge without the addition of steel.

Due to its design, the concrete load-bearing structure uses less material overall, including no steel or mortar. And, due to the geometry of the bridge, the angled blocks transfer the load to the footings, keeping the entire structure stable. And because it doesn’t need mortar, the bridge can be disassembled and reassembled elsewhere.

“This precise method of 3D printing concrete allows us to combine the principles of traditional vaulted construction with digital concrete fabrication to use the material only where it is structurally needed without producing waste,” said Philippe Block. , professor at ETH, reports Futurity.

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