Doctors have long vouched for the goodness of vegetables but now engineers are recommending them to make buildings stronger and greener.

A research being conducted by engineers at Lancaster University in collaboration with industrial partners at Cellucomp UK is focussing on strengthening concrete mixtures using nano platelets extracted from root vegetables such as carrot and sugar beet. These nano platelets work by increasing the calcium silicate hydrate content in the concrete and preventing the formation of cracks.

Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, the study takes off from early test findings about the impact of concrete mixtures incorporating these nano platelets on the mechanical properties of concrete as well as the environmental benefits. Tests reveal that these vegetable-composite concrete mixtures performed much better than commercially available cement additives such as graphene and carbon nanotubes at a much lower cost.

With the construction industry being one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, there is increased focus on reducing the environmental impact of concrete. This new research shows that the addition of the root vegetable based nano platelets resulted in a saving of 40kg of ordinary Portland cement per cubic metre of concrete, effectively reducing 40kg of CO2 for the same volume. The study, therefore, proves that the root vegetable additive reduces the quantity of concrete required in buildings, and consequently, carbon emissions from construction.

The research study by Lancaster University’s Engineering Department uses nano platelets extracted from waste root vegetables sourced from the food industry. In addition to reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with the manufacture of cement as well as decreasing material costs in construction, these vegetable-based cementitious composites also help prevent corrosion and increase the lifespan of the materials.

To reinforce existing concrete structures, the research team is also exploring the idea of creating very thin sheets of vegetable nano platelets.