In Texas, Rice University researchers developed packed, micron-scale calcium silicate spheres that could lead to stronger and greener concrete, the world’s most-used synthetic material. Many have been looking for biobased alternatives to concrete, but these spheres could help mitigate the energy-intensive techniques now used to make cement, the most common binder in concrete.
The researchers formed the spheres in a solution around nanoscale seeds of a common detergent-like surfactant. The spheres can be prompted to self-assemble into solids that are stronger, harder, more elastic and more durable than ubiquitous Portland cement. The spheres are also suitable for bone-tissue engineering, insulation, ceramic and composite applications as well as cement.