Breaking down old buildings to make room for new ones doesn’t take much time, especially with the use of strategically placed explosives. However, once the building is reduced to nothing but rubble, finding ways to dispose that building material including concrete is the biggest job. Concrete isn’t an environmentally friendly material by any means and producing it contributes to CO2 production. Moreover, concrete isn’t completely recyclable and breaking it down with conventional techniques creates unhealthy dust and smaller bits of the same rubble.
With millions of tons of waste concrete being produced over the world each year, devising means to safely recycle concrete becomes even more important. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute’s Concrete Technology Group in Holzkirchen, Germany have now come up with a breakthrough in concrete recycling, which could enable builders use waste from a dismantled building to create a new building.
The idea here to make use of a 150 nanosecond bolt of lightning and the principles of electrodynamic fragmentation to break down concrete into its original components. Lightning loves to travel through water when compared to solids, and the research team figured out that a 150 nanosecond bolt of lightning, when traveling through water, can penetrate concrete as well. Hitting concrete with this short but intense bolt will break the bonds of concrete and reduce it to its original components, which can easily be made into new concrete. Currently the research team is able to process about a ton of waste concrete per hour in the lab and efforts are on to better the process and increase the rate of processing to industry standards.