An In-Depth Look At Ferrock And How It Compares To Concrete
Concrete is one of the most common construction materials in the U.S., with over 68 million metric tons of the material produced in 2004. It's considered the standard building material for a wide range of construction projects, from ordinary residential homes to towering skyscrapers and massive hydroelectric dams.
Recently, a University of Arizona student created an eco-friendly alternative that offers its own set of useful benefits. The following takes a look at how this new material, known as Ferrock, stacks up to traditional concrete.
What Makes Ferrock so Special?
Ferrock's origins lie with University of Arizona Ph.D. student David Stone, who set out to develop a carbon-neutral material that could be used in the same manner as cement. Stone's findings came about after years of studying Portland cement's unique properties.
As the name implies, the basic building blocks of Ferrock come from iron discards in the form of waste steel dust. A common byproduct of numerous industrial processes, the iron in waste steel dust reacts with carbon dioxide (CO2) to form iron carbonate. The iron carbonate becomes part of the material's mineral matrix, adding to its overall strength.
Ferrock's greatest strength lies with its eco-friendly properties. Although Ferrock releases CO2 during production, it also absorbs large amounts of CO2 as it hardens. This makes Ferrock an effective carbon sink that permanently locks in those potentially harmful greenhouse gases. This unique trait may prove appealing to those who wish to lower their carbon footprint through the use of ecologically sustainable materials.
In addition to being eco-friendly, it also possesses incredible durability thanks to a unique property. When it hardens, it does so in a way that mimics solid rock. This allows Ferrock to resist certain forces differently from concrete, giving it excellent overall durability and stability. Because of iron carbonate's hardening properties, Ferrock can also be used in underwater applications in saltwater environments
Downsides to Ferrock
As a relatively new material that hasn't seen much use in the industrial arena, Ferrock's overall capabilities remain largely unproven. It's also unknown how Ferrock behaves under a wide range of building conditions or whether traditional concrete techniques can be used on the new material. On the other hand, concrete is a tried-and-tested quantity for the vast majority of builders and developers.
Cost is also another factor that puts concrete ahead in most construction projects. Given Ferrock's unique production process, it's likely that its overall cost will be significantly more than that of Portland cement. There's also concern that steel producers may catch on to waste steel dust's newfound uses and charge for it accordingly. The economics of Ferrock must not only account for this potential development, but also for other changes in production and marketing methods.
Will It Replace Concrete Anytime Soon?
The chances of Ferrock completely replacing concrete are pretty slim. After all, concrete has a lot going for itself – not only is it relatively cheap to purchase, but it's also easy to produce and it can be used to build a wide variety of structures. Its sheer versatility is what makes it attractive in so many ways.
Concrete can also prove effective when it comes to neutralizing CO2 emissions. For instance, magnesium silicate-based cement can also absorb large amounts of CO2 as it hardens. The abundance of magnesium silicates also makes it a lower-cost alternative to Ferrock.
But one shouldn't discount the usefulness of Ferrock as an eco-conscious alternative. When used in conjunction with other eco-friendly materials and building strategies, it becomes possible for entire countries to lower their overall greenhouse gas output and create more sustainable environmental conditions for future generations to enjoy.