A team of Washington State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers found a way to improve cement with shrimp shell nanoparticles, which could lead to reduced seafood waste and lower carbon emissions from concrete production.
Concrete is the most used material on earth after water. Cement production is carbon intensive, comprising about 15% of industrial energy consumption and about 5% of total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Seafood waste is a significant problem for the fishing industry, generating between 6 to 8 million pounds of waste annually worldwide.
Crab, shrimp and lobster shells are made up of about 20–30% chitin with much of the rest being calcium carbonate, another useful additive for cement.
As processed nanocrystals of chitin were added to the cement, WSU researchers were able to improve properties including its consistency, setting time, strength and durability. They saw a 40% increase in strength in how the concrete can bend and a 12% improvement in the ability to compress it.
Set time is also delayed by more than an hour, a desired property for long-distance transport and hot weather concrete work.