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UCLA granted $1.5M to develop eco-friendly 3D printed concrete

Engineers from UCLA have received a $1.5 million research grant to develop an eco-friendly 3D printable concrete material that uses carbon dioxide as part of its binder. The large grant was funded by the National Science Foundation, which hopes the research team will find a more sustainable solution for the production of 3D printable building materials.

Today, most concrete is bound together using cement—a material whose production accounts for a significant portion of all man-made carbon emissions. By finding a way to incorporate carbon dioxide into the production of an alternative concrete material, the research team at UCLA believes that its carbon footprint could be reduced dramatically—by as much as 60% compared to existing concrete mixes on the market.

UCLA 3D printed concrete grant
Mathieu Bauchy is leading the UCLA research project

“Concrete is by far the most manufactured material in the world, however its large carbon footprint is a major detriment toward its continued use in its current form,” explained Mathieu Bauchy, a computational materials scientist and an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. “This grant allows us to leverage recent developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning to design a more sustainable product. We aim to help construction—a conservative, empiricism-based industry— evolve into a knowledge- and data-intensive industry of the 21st century.”

Bauchy is the principal investigator on the project and is working with other UCLA faculty members Gauray Sant, a professor of civil and environmental engineering; Ximin He, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering; and Puneet Gupta, a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The research will primarily focus on three key areas: exploring and understanding how cement slurries flow influence their printability, discovering how to maximize the amount of carbon dioxide being incorporated into the concrete production process, and using machine learning to explore lightweight 3D printed structures with high load-bearing capabilities.

The $1.5 million grant is part of the NSF’s Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future program and will be used to support graduate and postdoc researchers as well as to train undergraduate students.

Also this week, Penn State researchers received $75,000 worth of grant money to fund another 3D printing construction project. The project in question, which also has an environmental inspiration, aims to commercialize the 3D printing technology and materials first pioneered by the Penn State team in NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge.

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