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

Sustainable alternative masonry blocks for wall construction

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.


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.


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.


  • 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


  • Masonry blocks, commonly in foundation walls to support framed construction
  • Exposed interior and exterior walls of buildings
  • Freestanding landscape walls and retaining walls
Last Updated: January 2024
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