British post-grads develop concrete alternative from desert sand

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In the United Kingdom, scientists at Imperial College London have used desert sand to create a low-carbon alternative to concrete.

Dubbed Finite, the material is as strong as concrete but made from sand considered too fine for building materials. It also has half the carbon footprint of its conventional counterpart and helps address the global shortage in construction-grade sand—a crisis leading to illegal mines and criminal activity. “[There are] wars that are going on for sand throughout the world [over this],” says Matteo Maccario, one of the post-grads behind Finite. “All these things were crazy to us when we found out.”

The binding material for Finite was not disclosed, but it is greener than that of conventional concrete.

“The main binder in concrete is responsible for five percent of global CO2 emissions, which is huge,” said Maccario. “Our worst-case estimate right now is less than half the CO2 footprint than concrete, in terms of what we are using.”