Cement production has a substantial carbon footprint. A new method developed by FormConsult makes it possible to reduce the amount of cement in concrete by 20 percent. The innovation also increases the lifespan of the buildings.

All over the world, intensified construction of buildings, roads and infrastructure is driving up demand for concrete. China currently accounts for about 60 percent of the global consumption. Cement, which is an essential ingredient in concrete, is a material with a substantial carbon footprint. Between 6 and 8 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions can be traced to cement production processes.

”We have developed a new method that uses less cement. The concept allows us to reduce the cement content of the concrete by 20 percent. Compared to traditional concrete, it is just as strong. What’s more, the surface is denser, and cracks less, and the constructions get a longer lifespan”, says Yngve Alvarsson, CEO of FormConsult AB.

The New Technology

New casting technology reduces the cement consumption and the environmental impact. Photo: FormConsult.

”You can reduce the amount of cement without compromising the performance or quality of the concrete at all. The technology actually improves several properties of the concrete. The technique involves treating fresh concrete mass when casting horizontal surfaces. It makes casting work a better controlled process and eliminates many common production problems”, Yngve Alvarsson says.

”The New Technology is a Swedish innovation. It makes it possible to level, vibrate and revibrate simultaneously, in a modern and a more efficient way. The surface becomes denser and stronger. The risk for cracks in the surface is greatly reduced – i.e. plastic shrinkage cracks – when placing concrete in warm or windy conditions. This can improve the lifespan of constructions such as a bridge deck or the concrete surface of a square immensely”.

”Beside the cement, sand, gravel and water, contemporary concrete often contains additives. Because of that, it can’t be vibrated like in the old days. Modern liquid concrete contains a number of chemical components, and they may separate in the casting process. Modern concrete also settles in the mould, often resulting in a granulated and not very compact surface”, Yngve says.

”The quay at Stocksund is an example of a surface that is totally free from cracks, thanks to FormConsult’s method. It prevents saltwater from reaching the reinforcement steel easily – water that otherwise would cause corrosion of the steel. Eventually, such corrosion would make the quay fall apart”, says Yngve Alvarsson, FormConsult. Photo: FormConsult.

”When the surface is treated while it is still plastic instead of after it is hydrated, these surface quality issues can be reduced, with less need for chemical admixtures. We have developed a machine called RolliT Motorsloda, which provides a vertical vibration and compacts the concrete in the early stages of casting, leaving a dense, smooth surface. The machine’s light weight and vibration-free handles makes the otherwise back-breaking work much easier on the operator, too”.

”In the next stage, the RolliT Robot is employed – another FormConsult product. The machine is remote controlled and so light that it can run on fresh concrete mass. The purpose of the machine is to compact the concrete and give it a finer, machine-brushed surface. The resulting surface is smoother, denser and with a stronger finish, with reduced risk of cracks. It saves time and money, since workers no longer have to use heavy power trowels when the concrete has started to stiffen. Another advantage is that the denser surface reduces the need for future maintenance. It becomes more resistant to chloride migration (saltwater penetration through cracks in the concrete) which usually causes a lot of problems”, Yngve Alvarsson says.

WWF Climate Solver

In 2017, FormConsult was appointed as a WWF Climate Solver. The award is given for the product Strongcrete RolliT RoboT, which reduces the required amount of cement in concrete by 20 percent. The robot is a development of The New Technology.

”We are now looking to market the Strongcrete technology, and our goal is to become a global supplier of machinery for treatment of horizontal concrete surfaces. A 20 percent market share in 2027 could potentially save 86 million tonnes of cement annually, and an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emissions. We are working to lay the groundwork for expansion. Our business model is fairly simple, since we are replacing old technology with a new solution. Why are old casting methods still in use? They have not changed in 40 years, and the drawbacks are well known. There is a huge opportunity here: to work a little smarter and save money, improve working conditions and help the environment in the process”, Yngve Alvarsson says.

The article was published in December 2017.