Admixture processor, engineering parties promote concrete-grade graphene

Sources: Black Swan Graphene Inc., Toronto; CP staff

A partnership between Black Swan Graphene of Canada, plus the United Kingdom’s Nationwide Engineering Research and Development Ltd. and Arup Group Ltd., will position a branded, graphene admixture enhanced concrete for adoption among carbon-minded construction owners. Nationwide Engineering R&D is testing the potential of its high strength Concretene mixes to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions associated with finished slabs and structures by a) lowering overall concrete volume up to 30 percent compared to conventional specs, and, b) optimizing portland cement dosages.

The material volume factor and binder streamlining reflect Concretene strength characteristics attributable to graphene atoms’ inordinate level of reactive surface area, up to 2,500 m2 per gram. The relative surface area fosters mechanical support for the chemical reaction occurring as cement paste crystallizes into its permanent solid matrix. High-magnification study of finished Concretene shows differing arrangements of crystallization between standard and graphene enhanced concretes, with a less porous microstructure evident in the latter. 

Hydrophobic properties make graphene a challenging material to mix, interact and disperse in a water-based material such as concrete. When properly distributed in Concretene or other batch of cementitious materials and aggregates, graphene admixture imparts significant benefits in the hardened product’s compressive, tensile and flexural strength, as well as faster curing times, less microcracking and reduced permeability to water and salts. 

Nationwide Engineering R&D supplied Concretene for a U.K. athletic facility slab with an eye to observing the material’s long term performance.

The Black Swan and Nationwide Engineering R&D partnership entails minor equity swaps to solidify graphene supply chain assurances key to Concretene commercialization. A major architectural and engineering player, Arup will take a minor Nationwide Engineering R&D stake and promote Concretene specifications for its global client base. Nationwide Engineering R&D is a spinoff of Nationwide Engineering Group, which developed the material with the University of Manchester Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre. Concurrent with the partnership and equity stake announcements, Black Swan aims to significantly increase its graphene output, primarily through a production arrangement with Quebec-based Nouveau Monde Graphite Inc.

“By leveraging the exceptional performance of the Nationwide Engineering Research and Development process and Arup’s expertise, reach and leadership, this integrated supply chain can provide a turnkey solution and revolutionize the concrete industry on a global scale,” contends Black Swan Graphene CEO Simon Marcotte.

“Continued innovation in the production of concrete can drive the construction industry’s journey towards net zero carbon emissions,” adds Arup Director Matt Lovell. “Supporting that transformative change with our Nationwide Engineering Research and Development partnership furthers our goal of shaping a better, more sustainable world. We look forward to using our commercial know-how and deep expertise in the built environment to help innovators realize the full potential of Concretene.”

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A novel class of concrete strength enhancers tailored to portland cement requirements is the inaugural admixture offering from Chryso Inc. and GCP Applied Technologies following their October 2022 unification as the Saint-Gobain Construction Chemicals business unit. Unveiled at ConExpo-Con/Agg 2023 and formulated to reduce the binder factor in typical concrete mix designs by up to 10 percent, EnviroMix SE is indicative of a commitment to decarbonize construction by Paris parent company Saint-Gobain Group. 

“EnviroMix SE is our first product launch as a combined business unit. The integration of GCP’s and Chryso’s expertise and resources provides our customers and partners with the most advanced solutions,” says Saint-Gobain Construction Chemicals North America President Steve Williams. “Aligned with Saint-Gobain’s purpose of ‘Making the World a Better Home,’ EnviroMix SE combines high performance and carbon footprint reduction to accelerate the pace of low-carbon transition in the construction industry.”

The new admixture activates portland cement and supplementary cementitious material hydration and enhances early and late age compressive strengths, up to 1,000 psi at one day. In addition, EnviroMix SE is neutral to slump life or other concrete mix characteristics and compatible with water reducer admixtures. To meet the specific requirements of concrete producers, it can be customized for materials and performance.

Nationwide Engineering Research and Development supplied Concretene for UK athletic facility slab mixes to observe the material’s long term performance.