By 2025, as the Earth’s crust becomes increasingly acidic, and as global emissions of carbon dioxide increase, the cement industry will likely be the most important contributor to the global carbon sink.
“It’s going to be an area that is going to go to be very important in terms of the carbon cycle,” says Kevin Akerlof, a scientist with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C. In his 2015 book, The Concrete Revolution: The Coming Collapse of the Global Economy, Akerdof wrote that the cement companies he studied in the U.S. would have a major impact on global emissions.
In the decades ahead, the industry will become a key driver of the global economy, Ackerlof says.
But how cement will be made in the future remains a mystery.
To date, most of the existing cement plants in the world have been built with a single material, and the processes that produce cement are still poorly understood.
But now that researchers have built a model to understand the chemistry of cement, it is possible to begin to better understand how cement is made.
“There are a number of different chemical reactions that occur in cement manufacturing,” says Christopher Wigdor, an associate professor at Stanford University who is the director of the Caltech Center for Sustainable Technologies.
“The problem is that all these different reactions happen simultaneously.”
Wigdors research has shown that the reactions that produce carbon dioxide and other chemicals are different in cement, but the exact process remains largely unknown.
“Most people think of cement as being a kind of carbon-based, chemical that you put into the cement, which you can see on your house,” Wigdsons coauthor, and fellow professor of materials science and engineering, Daniel Bock told New York magazine.
“But that’s a mistake.”
The chemistry of the concrete itself is complex, too.
There are different kinds of cement.
“A lot of what we do with cement is it is a type of carbonate, a chemical that we use to build cement,” Bock says.
“We use it to make cement in a variety of ways, but most cement is cement made with cement.”
In the end, it’s all about the chemistry.
Bock and Wigdanos work together to build a model that describes how cement works, and they hope to eventually build a concrete factory that can manufacture cement on demand.
The process is very complex, but they have found that it is similar to that of an automobile engine.
“To put it in terms that you can understand, we use two things to make concrete,” says Bock.
“One is a gas and the other is an additive that is made from carbon.
These two things combine and the combined result is a cement.”
The cement, the two chemicals and the combination are then put into a process that is called the hydrolysis process, or HOB, and this allows the two to form a single cement that is extremely strong.
Bocks research has revealed that the HOB process involves two main processes.
First, the carbon dioxide is added to the cement and used to form an acid.
“In the hydrothermal process, the CO 2 is produced in the reaction with the CO, which produces the CO and the acid,” Bocks says.
In this case, the gas is hydrogen chloride, or HCCl2.
Second, the HCCl3 is added.
“When the HOM is formed, the reaction between the two acids and the carbon gives rise to the CO.
That reaction is then followed by a reaction of hydrogen ions, which gives rise both to the carbon and the HC,” Bocking explains.
The CO and HC ions are the building blocks for cement.
Once these reactions are complete, the hydroxystructure of the solid forms.
The cement itself is made by adding cement to water.
“Water dissolves the cement into water and then gives it a specific chemical structure, and that structure is then used to make the cement,” says Wigdfors research.
“So that’s the whole process.”
In other words, the process is what we would do in a factory that could produce cement in bulk.
But what about the chemicals?
Wigdeos research has identified three key chemicals that make up the cement: hydroxytoluene, benzene, and acetone.
These chemicals are used to add the cement to the concrete.
The hydroxy compounds are dissolved in water to make a mixture called a polymer.
This polymer then reacts with calcium carbonate to form limestone, the main building block of concrete.
“What we are seeing in cement is that there are two different ways of producing cement,” Wiggdor says.
There’s one method that involves adding the cement as a polymer, called the HAB method.
The other is called an HOB or HOM method.
“If you take the