Spring 2021 – Treated Waste Plastics: Enhancing the Performance of Concrete
Project Director Christian Hoover
This Zimin Institute project focused on repurposing waste plastic generated within a city and subjecting to a treatment process to enable its use in cement being used to build the city (thereby enabling a circular re-use while substantially reducing carbon footprint). This process, for which the team has submitted a patent application, has demonstrated that a beam made by replacing a small percent of the cement with treated plastics can cause a dramatic increase in the ability of the cement to absorb energy, making it more ductile and durable while preserving most of its strength, when compared to a reference made of pure cement. At the limit, by using their unique plastic chemical pre-treatment process, the team realized an unprecedented increase of a factor of 7 in energy absorption for a 16 wt% plastic incorporation level. The new formulation in addition reduces the concrete’s CO2 footprint. These dramatic findings are serving as the basis for discussions with potential investors and for major proposal submissions to federal agencies.