Casey Tinney

In a city setting, construction is ever-present. New buildings being assembled, roads and sidewalks being repaired, the list goes on. One thing can be found at nearly every construction site: concrete. 

Concrete is the most widely used construction material. With a material that ubiquitous, it's crucial to make it as eco-friendly as possible.  

"We use concrete in a high volume, which results in higher emissions," explains Dr. Mehdi Khanzadeh Moradllo. 

Khanzadeh is a professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Temple's College of Engineering. He is the latest College recipient of the National Science Foundation's CAREER Award that will fund his project "Development of Novel High-Performance Carbon Sink Concrete Materials Using Sustainable Multifunctional Hybrid Additives." 

On winning the CAREER award, Khanzadeh stated, "it's a really humbling experience. It puts you in situation that you can explore the ideas you're passionate about to impact society positively." 

Khanzadeh's project focuses on developing a more sustainable concrete material, with the goal of reducing carbon emissions from concrete production. This is done by absorbing carbon dioxide into the concrete.  

Cement, which acts as a binder in concrete, is the largest carbon emitter in concrete production. With his method, the carbon dioxide is sequestered in concrete and reacts with alternative sustainable binders with a much higher rate to form high-performance carbon-sink concrete. 

The award will allow Khanzadeh to test his currently developed material and method at a higher level as well as experiment with advanced analytical and imaging techniques. He is looking forward to collaborating with the Department of Energy National Laboratories. 

Since the material will eventually be used in construction, it's important to test the material's durability in addition to ensuring its sustainability, which is where the higher-level testing comes in. 

The integrity of concrete can be greatly impacted by its environment. Salt used on roads can corrode the concrete over time; climates with temperatures that fluctuate from freezing to warmer can further damage the concrete as well. 

"If you are not making durable concrete, in the end you have to repair or replace it more frequently. That's more cost, more CO2 emissions, so that's going to be even worse. Both of them [sustainability and durability] have to go hand in hand," he explains. 

With the award being comprised of an education component in addition to research, Khanzadeh plans to host high school students in his lab to teach the concept of sustainable concrete, as well as sponsor multidisciplinary senior design projects on sustainable concrete solutions in the future. 

He also plans on hosting webinars and seminars to educate professionals in the construction industry on this new material. 

"If we develop this technology but nobody's using it, there's not going to be an impact," Khanzadeh explains. His hope is for the material to be widely used to provide the best possible results in the fight against climate change. 

"I'm hoping with this funding we can take it to the next level. At the end of the NSF CAREER proposal, we hope to have a product we can start upscaling," states Khanzadeh.