Cementing our Future

Cementing our Future

Dating back more than 5,000 years and developed later by the Romans to enable the construction of the great basilicas and coliseums, cement has evolved to bind together modern society.

But production of this essential material contributes significantly to our CO2 emissions and with demand continuing to grow, how do we balance the pressures for new buildings and infrastructure with environmental responsibility?

Cementing our Futureis the topic for discussion at the next instalment of the University of Aberdeen’s popular Café Scientifique City series on Wednesday April 13.

The University’s Professor Donald Macphee will discuss the benefits which could be reaped through new technologies at the event in Waterstone’s Union Bridge Store in Aberdeen at 7pm.

He said: “One of the interesting things about cement is that it tends to be taken for granted yet its widespread availability and flexibility provides us with the essential elements of our modern, developed infrastructure. If we look around us it is used in roads, bridges, sewers and just about every building project from DIY projects to those costing millions of pounds.

“Around 10 cubic kilometres of concrete is produced globally each year to satisfy society’s need for structural improvement and to maintain our standard of living but there is now growing concern about the environmental impact of cement making.

“Approximately five to seven per cent of global CO2 emissions are attributable to the global cement industry. How are we going to maintain expectations for infrastructure but address these pollution issues?

 “Emissions can be reduced by diluting cement with other materials while still retaining its essential properties, but with demand for concrete growing, particularly in China, India and South America, more fundamental changes may be necessary. Importantly, any modifications to cement and concrete technologies must ensure that current performance expectations are not compromised.”

Professor Macphee will explore existing and future opportunities to reduce cement CO2 emissions but he will also highlight some of the durability challenges faced by concrete in conditions from the cold of the arctic to the heat of deserts and even the sea spray of the north-east coastline. He will also introduce some positive environmental impacts from concrete technology.

He added: “The importance of understanding the underlying chemistry of cement has never been greater and I hope to show the importance of this often overlooked material in a new light.”

Café Scientifique Cityis free to attend, open to all and advance registration is not required for the events but visitors are encouraged to come along early as capacity is limited.

For information on all of the Café Scientifique events visit: www.abdn.ac.uk/science/cafescience/or contact Dr Ken Skeldon Head of the University of Aberdeen’s Public Engagement with Science Unit by email at k.skeldon@abdn.ac.uk.

Café Scientifiqueis supported by a science engagement grant from the Scottish Government.