As the most widely used manufactured material on the planet, it’s perhaps no surprise concrete production comes with a huge environmental cost – cement production alone generates around 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (Co2) per year – around 8% of global emissions (Nature, 2021). 

As global efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of cement continues, scientists and researchers at Cardiff University are using META, Wales’ national marine energy test facility, to better understand how low-carbon concrete performs in a marine environment. 

A team from the university recently installed several low-carbon concrete samples at the META Quayside site. They plan to monitor the samples to investigate their durability in intertidal marine environments, as well as their feasibility for use in tidal lagoon schemes. 

The samples, which weigh around one tonne, are made with recycled materials and industrial byproducts. They include integrated humidity, strength, and temperature sensors to specifically monitor early hydration. 

Wales has the second largest tidal range in the world, offering the potential to generate substantial amounts of predictable, reliable, and renewable power through tidal lagoons. The successful production of low-carbon concrete could present a huge opportunity to reduce the Co2 emissions associated with the construction of future tidal lagoons here in Wales, and globally. 

Saul Young, META Operations Manager  

“This is important research which has the scope to make a significant reduction in carbon emissions associated with building tidal range lagoons, but also all sorts of other marine and coastal infrastructure and even floating offshore wind substructures.”

Dr. Riccardo Maddalena, Lecturer in Civil Engineering, School of Engineering, Cardiff University   

“Deploying concrete specimens to site has been a very fascinating experience, both from a scientific point of view and from a practical one. The META site provides us with valuable real-time information on what is happening to the concrete while exposed to aggressive environments. This is not entirely possible to do in laboratory conditions, due to size of the specimens and capability of our instruments. On the other hand, we have now perfected a detailed experimental campaign to overcome practical challenges such as sensors, physical property values reading on site and real-time strength measurements.“  

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