Healthcare waste has become the other side of the pandemic, a problem for the environment. Given this scenario, the first initiatives that seek to recycle some of the products used are beginning to emerge. One of them comes from the United States and consists of using the disposable masks to improve the strength of concrete.
A team of researchers at Washington State University has designed a process to take advantage of polypropylene or polyester masks. This consists of separating the fibers into tiny microfibers 5 to 10 millimeters in length and mixing them with a solution of graphene oxide. The resulting ingredient is added to the cement mix.
Reinforced concrete with masks
So… what is the result of this combination? According to the study, published in ScienceDirect, you can increase Up to 47% the strength of commonly used cement after one month of curing compared to a traditional mixture. “Disposable masks could be a valuable product if processed properly,” says Professor Xianming Shi, one of the study’s authors.
But adding microfibers to a cement mix isn’t entirely new. We have been doing it for years, but it is a very expensive option. However, we now have masks everywhere, according to the University of Southern Denmark, 1.5 billion are discarded annually, so this alternative could become much cheaper and more effective.
In addition, the production of cement is an intensive process that generates up to 8% of carbon emissions worldwide. If reinforced concrete becomes a viable option, it could reduce the amount of cement needed for projects and make buildings last longer, resulting in lower carbon emissions.
For now, the researchers will continue to conduct studies to test their idea. They will also work to test whether other polymeric waste, such as old clothes, can help strengthen concrete to the same level or better than used face masks.
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