Study: Use of Disposable Masks in Cement Mixture

Single-use masks that were being used during the pandemic are now turning out to be an environmental problem and researchers have demonstrated a way of incorporating these masks into a mixture of cement to create more durable and stronger concrete.

Overview:

  • If not reused the disposable masks do not decay for decades and thus they pose a risk to the ecosystem.
  • In a paper that was published in the journal named Materials Letters, researchers have demonstrated that the mixture that was made using mask materials was 47 percent stronger than the cement that is commonly used.
  • Zhipeng Li, a graduate student in WSU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has led this study.
  • US Department of Transportation’s National Center for Transportation Infrastructure Durability and Life Extension funded this study.

The global effect of Cement production

Cement production is a carbon-intensive process that is responsible for 8 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.

Cement mixture produced by using medical masks

If concrete is reinforced by using microfibres, the amount of cement needed for a project can be reduced. Also, the concrete lasts longer thus saving money and cutting down on carbon emissions. There are fibres present in medical masks that can be useful for this industry. A process was developed by the researchers to fabricate tiny mask fibres that ranged from 5 mm to 30 mm in length. The fibres were then added to the cement concrete so as to strengthen it and prevent it from cracking. The cotton and metal loops from the masks were removed and then they were cut and incorporated into ordinary Portland cement. The mask microfibres were mixed into a solution of graphene oxide and then they were added to the cement paste mixture. Without the fibres, there will be microscopic cracks in the concrete that would later lead to wider cracks and the failure of the material.

Conclusion

More studies are being conducted by researchers to test the idea that mask microfibres could improve the durability of the concrete as well as protect it from deicing chemicals and frost damage.

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