Is it possible to produce concrete that is not only more sustainable from an environmental perspective, but also continues to perform under the most demanding usage conditions? 

This is the subject of research being carried out by EnDurCrete, a project led by HeidelbergCement that is being funded by the European Commission within the Horizon 2020 programme, and to which VITO is making an important contribution as a partner.

Most used material after water

Every year, four billion metric tonnes of Portland cement are produced globally, enough for around 30 billion metric tonnes of concrete, making it the most commonly used material in the world after water. Due to this large-scale consumption and the energy-intensive production process, eight percent of the world’s CO2 emissions are attributed to the production of Portland cement alone. For this reason, we are working hard to find solutions to reduce the CO2 emissions from cement production. 

The EnDurCrete project hopes to demonstrate how it is possible to design sustainable concrete using novel, low-carbon cements, which can be used in the infrastructure for challenging environments such as ports, tunnels, offshore structures or bridges in the maritime environment. The low-carbon cements being developed and demonstrated are produced using optimised combinations of high-quality industrial by-products to replace up to 50% of Portland cement. The novel cements go one step further than the current industry standards regarding content and the combinations of the various cement replacement materials (blast-furnace slag from the crude iron, coal fly ash from electricity production, and limestone flour). This can be achieved by adjusting how the cement replacements are incorporated, for example. 

Environmental impact

The project aims to persuade users and building specifiers to use concrete based on these cements in practice, thereby reducing the materials’ environmental impact further. VITO is contributing to this by mapping out the reaction mechanisms of the novel cements during curing, in order to achieve the optimum balance between cement and cement replacements. VITO will also be investigating the recycling potential of these novel cement and concrete types within the circular economy, comparing them against both technical and environmental hygiene criteria. The EnDuurCrete project will continue until 2021.