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Greenville Business Magazine

Greenville to be test site for a new type of concrete infused with nanoparticles

Dec 06, 2018 03:49PM ● By Chris Haire
A downtown parking lot owned by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities soon will be the testing ground for a revolutionary form of concrete infused with wood nanoparticles.

The Greenville-based Endowment, which is the nation’s largest public charity dedicated solely to keeping forests as forests and advancing family-wage jobs in forest-rich rural communities, has partnered with USDA Forest Service, Oregon State University and Purdue University to test the performance of concrete through the addition of cellulosic nanomaterials (CN) produced from wood.

The Endowment’s 100-by-40 foot parking lot on East North Street is one of three sites nationwide being used in the test, said Carlton Owen, the group’s president and CEO. The Greenville site is the biggest.

“We are excited to be spotlighting Greenville in this project,” Owen said. “This test aims to show what the future of sustainability can be.”

The Endowment will be working with local partners Harper General Contractors, SynTerra Corporation and Thomas Concrete to showcase this emerging innovation with a rebuild of the parking lot starting this month. The project will involve head-to-head comparison pours of 32 tons on CN enhanced concrete side-by-side with an equal amount of traditional concrete. The long-term goal is to test how well the CN compares to traditional concrete when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, materials used and cost.

Cellulosic nanomaterials are produced by breaking down wood to its tiniest, strongest components through mechanical and chemical processes similar to making paper. For example, a human hair is approximately 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers wide. The head of a pin is one million nanometers wide. Cellulosic nanomaterials are approximately six nanometers wide.

At the nano scale, materials take on novel properties, said Dr. Alan Rudie of the USDA. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory. In the case of cellulose, nanomaterials are as strong as steel with only one- fifth the weight. Among other features, they can be used as reinforcing in transparent materials.

“Researchers are testing these cellulosic nanomaterials in a wide range of applications from substrate for flexible computer chips, to composites for car and airplane bodies, lighter and stronger than steel,” said Dr. Rudie. “Our team expects that concrete will be among the first commercial applications.”

The addition of CN to concrete produces a stronger product which has significant advantages over