Project: Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP – Viable concrete recycling

Scientist: Dr. Volker Thome



Featured material:

CONCRETE [aggregate, cement, chemical admixtures, and water] RECYCLED

Concrete widely and intensively  used for making structures, building foundations, material unit components (brick/block walls), pavements, bridges/overpasses, highways/roads, etc.  However, its constant used has have profound negative implications to our ecosystem being a major contributor to greenhouse gases emissions.  Current recycling process have limited uses. More of a reuse (preserving existing building, i.e.) than a recycle, such processes leaves a  shredded product which produces stony fragments that are suitable only for a few uses depending of the chemical residue left in them.  Few uses includes: granular fill, sub-base for roads, and potential used of as an aggregate which is limited if it is free of contaminants.  In the end, there is much more concrete wasted in the recycling process the ends on landfill, still.  Now, the work being done at the Fraunhofer Institute by DR. Volker Thome offers some great insight but at what costs? and what are the ecological implications?  Perhaps, this new hope, uses a fragmentation process called Electrodynamics fragmentation, often called “pulsed power processing” as well.  The process separates concrete into its components and works on this matter: first a lightning-like bolt of electricity at concrete under water, then as it passes through the material, the lighting follows a path of less resistance which happens to be where cement and aggregate are joined.  Therefore, the process break them apart resulting in many of its original components.  This sounds great!, but for many of us with a limited scientific/engineering background have little to no idea how much energy intensive this process is?  Well, this process is widely used in the mining industry to break resource components into its valuable parts without destroying them.   According to Dr. Thome, “The force of this shock wave is comparable to that of a TNT explosion.” Consequently, once this becomes a viable process to recycling concrete (within 2 years according to Dr. Thome) there would be more things to give thanks to rather than to consider.  This in itself might well be a thesis project and/or a doctoral research.

Synthesized features:

– Process: recycling concrete – electrodynamic fragmentation: perhaps the only viable solution today towards mitigating greenhouse gasses effect.

– Properties:

·        durable, fire resistant

·        good @ compression, poor @ tensile applications

– Applications:

·        Almost everywhere/anywhere


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