UCLA engineers received $1.5 million grant to make environmentally friendly concrete

Aug 15, 2019

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

A team of UCLA engineers has received a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop 3D-printed concrete that incorporates carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, as part of a binder.

Currently the process to make cement, which binds concrete, accounts for about 8% of global man-made carbon emissions. The research team will explore new alternative cements that could cut into this by incorporating carbon dioxide into the manufacturing process. The resulting product could have a carbon footprint of 60% less than current products, according to the research team’s estimates.

The principal investigator of the grant is Mathieu Bauchy, a computational materials scientist and an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering.

“Concrete is by far the most manufactured material in the world, however its large carbon footprint is a major detriment toward its continued use in its current form,” 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.”

Environmentally Friendly Concrete
Prototype samples of 3D-printed concrete. The cube is about 1 square inch in volume

Other UCLA Samueli faculty members on grant include Gaurav Sant, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Ximin He, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering; and Puneet Gupta, a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The researchers will conduct simulations and carry out experiments. They’ll focus on three areas.

* Understanding and controlling how slurries of cement flow to enable their use in 3D printing.

* Figuring out how to maximize the amount of carbon dioxide being incorporated in this process.

* Using machine learning to discover new 3D-printed structures that will offer high load-bearing capabilities, while still being lightweight.

The grant will support graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, and will also allow the team to train undergraduate students.

The grant is part of the NSF’s Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future program

In related research, Sant has been working on related technologies and is the leader of a team in the finals of an international competition to turn carbon exhaust into commercial products.

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