Corn-Based Concrete: Building the Future of Low-Carbon Construction Materials

Sustainable alternative masonry blocks for wall construction
Concrete Blocks
Opportunity

Available for Licensing,
Collaboration, or Funding
TRL: 2

IP Status

US Provisional Patent

Inventor

Mahmoud Shakouri

Reference No: 2022-025
Licensing Manager

Jessy McGowan
Jessy.McGowan@colostate.edu
970-491-7100

At a Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University have developed a method for transforming corn biomass waste into a cementitious material to make reduced-carbon concrete. Not only does this provide added value to crop waste material, but the blocks formed from this mixture have higher strength, thermal properties, and resistance to cracking compared to traditional cement. Additionally, the new blocks will further reduce harmful emissions associated with concrete production making this a sustainable building alternative.

Background

Cement production is a highly energy-intensive process contributing to approximately 7% of the total industrial energy consumption and generation of 6 to 8% of greenhouse emissions worldwide. Currently, cement is made from finely ground particles and materials, such as fly ash, a byproduct of coal mining, slag, and silica fume. As coal use is declining, so are its inputs to traditional concrete supply.  Supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) are often used to replace Portland cement in concrete mixtures partially, but factors like strength of the concrete, visual defects, and other barriers must be studied for each proposed SCM.


Extensive research and commercialization is ongoing worldwide to identify sustainable materials that can be used as SCMs in the concrete industry. To this end, substituting the cement in concrete with more abundant SCMs can be a potential solution to meet global sustainability development demands, and greener infrastructure from renewable sources.

Overview

Methods for utilizing corn biomass, referred to as stover, and processing it to produce a supplementary cementitious material are in development. Early results have shown that not only is it possible to use corn fiber and stover as an effective SCM, but the blocks produced have enhanced mechanical and durability properties. Masonry blocks that include corn biomass are also expected to have increased resistance to cracking and tensile stress.

Figure 1 illustrates the bulk electrical resistivity of treated corn stover ash concrete specimens measured at 7 kHz, (a) w/cm = 0.45 and 5% corn stover ash replacement; and (b) w/cm = 0.54 and 20% corn stover ash replacement.

Figure 2 illustrates the compressive strength of treated corn stover ash concrete specimens, (a) w/cm = 0.45 and 5% corn stover ash replacement; (b) w/cm = 0.54 and 20% corn stover ash replacement.

Benefits
  • Added value in corn production, which is the most-produced grain worldwide at an annual production of over 1.09 billion metric tons
  • Provides a sustainable alternative source of cementitious material to meet shifting climate change policies
  • Reduction of carbon emissions associated with concrete manufacturing
  • Enhanced tensile strength of concrete blocks
  • More efficient thermal properties
  • Requires less processing energy than traditional concrete materials
  • Reduced cracking
  • Increased durability
Applications
  • Masonry blocks, commonly in foundation walls to support framed construction
  • Exposed interior and exterior walls of buildings
  • Freestanding landscape walls and retaining walls