National Science Foundation Research Project at Alpena Community College
Alpena Community College recently received a National Science Foundation (NSF), Advanced Technical Education grant to study carbon capture and CO2 uptake in concrete and concrete masonry production. Research will be conducted at ACC’s World Center for Concrete Technology with participation by two-year concrete technology students. Involvement by regional secondary school science instructors, secondary level science students, and business and industry representatives are also notable components of the project.
The three-year, $200,000 award is the first NSF award in ACC’s 60-year history, and represents an investment in sustainability research in the cement, concrete, and concrete products industry—major components of the domestic and international construction economy that are working to reduce their carbon footprint. Building upon research out of McGill University in Canada, this research project may have significant implications on greenhouse gas emissions and the global warming debate.
The project stems from its potential contribution to research on carbon sequestration in concrete masonry products, one of the most common construction materials used throughout the world. The correlation between carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and the impact on greenhouse gas emissions will also be explored.
CO2 accounts for more than 82.6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (United States Department of Energy, 2008). The largest source of CO2 emissions comes from combustion of fossil fuels, but the cement industry contributes approximately 5 percent of global CO2 emissions. Due to the large quantities of fuel used during manufacture and the release of CO2 from the raw materials, cement production generates more carbon emissions than any other industrial process (International Energy Agency, 2007).
Concrete is the second most used product in the world, after water. Cement is the key ingredient in concrete. Research indicates that 0.65–0.92 tons of CO2is emitted per ton of cement produced. Demand for cement is growing. Projections of cement production at current emissions levels predict 5 billion tons of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere annually by 2050.
Research indicates that carbon dioxide can be absorbed in concrete to form stable calcium carbonate, a process known as carbonation (Johnson 2000; Monkman and Shao 2006). Recent research concludes that the most beneficial binder of captured carbon dioxide is concrete masonry product without ferrous reinforcement (Shao, Monkman and Boyd 2010).
The primary research focus of this project is to investigate and quantify the amount of CO2 sequestration based on a range of mix designs, admixtures, and curing methods. A secondary research focus will be to investigate the role of carbonation in reducing efflorescence in concrete masonry product. It is anticipated that findings from these research studies will support climate change research while providing input to cement producers on investments into curing innovations.
The NSF-ATE project will impact the following areas with a priority focus of enhancing technical education for two-year concrete technology students.
- Provide rural technicians in concrete and construction technology with research experience in sustainability and energy conservation.
- Create a career pathway between secondary, two-year, and four-year institutions.
- Build outreach and professional development opportunities to regional secondary science instructors.
- Outreach to industry through information sharing, product dissemination, seminars, and job fairs hosted at the World Center Concrete Technology at Alpena Community College.
- Develop online courses in energy conservation, sustainability, and kiln optimization leading to an academic certificate for concrete industry professionals.
For further details of ACC's NSF-ATE grant see original grant application documents: NSF Project Description