UNK Research Studying how Corn can Improve Concrete Durability

July 18, 2018, 1:11 a.m. ·

Researchers at the University of Nebraska at Kearney are testing corn cobs and stover ash to see if it can improve the durability of concrete for construction purposes. Stover is the leftover husks and stalks after the corn has been harvested.

With an aging infrastructure, researchers are looking into other ways to improve concrete durability using natural resources rather than the industrial resources which are currently being used. One of the key factors in deterioration of current concrete structures is the use of chloride-based substances commonly used for de-icing roads and bridges.

UNK assistant professor in construction management, Mahmoud Shakouri, says this is a great opportunity for Nebraska to get involved in.

“We have a lot of corn, and it’s a very sustainable product. Every year they’re planting and harvesting corn, so we have a lot of corn stover. But I think it helps the economy of the state. If we have plants primarily focused on making corn ash, it will also create jobs,” Shakouri said.

While this sounds like a new and innovative idea, Shakouri says it’s been done before.

“If you look at history, this stuff has been used for thousands of years. If you look at the Roman Empire and their buildings are standing today, they used the ashes in their concrete. What happened was after civilization, there was a lot of byproduct from the industry, and they started to move away from these natural things to things that are cheaper and available, so this is not a new concept,” Shakouri said.

The research should conclude in the spring of next year and will have enough data to determine if using corn ash will be a viable substitute for the industrial materials currently used in concrete.