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New concrete strengthened by coffee is now being tested in a real neighborhood

Published May 29th, 2024 2:06PM EDT
person walks on coffee-reinforced concrete footpath
Image: RMIT University / YouTube

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Last year, I reported on how scientists had found a way to create concrete that was 30 percent stronger thanks to combining heated coffee grounds with concrete. Now, the first coffee-reinforced concrete path is getting a real-world test.

Researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, originally made the discovery. They found that by replacing 15 percent of the sand traditionally found in concrete with waste coffee grounds, they could actually make the concrete stronger. Of course, it isn’t as simple as mixing coffee grounds into the concrete mixture. The organic waste would break down, weakening the entire thing.

However, the researchers found that if you heat the coffee grounds at 350 degrees Celsius using a low-energy process and somehow keep oxygen away from the grounds, you can actually create coffee ground biochar, which doesn’t decay like normal organic material. This new biochar is the foundation of the coffee-reinforced concrete.

While the discovery itself was possibly industry-shattering and could allow for a complete revamp of how we make concrete, the researchers are just now giving it a real-world test. The researchers are working with a local Victorian government council, the Macedon Ranges Shire Council, and they have laid out two types of biochar-reinforced concrete in a neighborhood.

While some of the concrete laid out in the test is just the regular garden variety, with all of its sand, the researchers also created a middle slab using wood chip biochar. And finally, the third type of concrete included in the test is the coffee-reinforced concrete. By putting the concrete out into the real world, and letting real people walk all over it, the researchers are giving us one of the most comprehensive tests they could ever come up with.

Being able to create stronger concrete isn’t just a boon for the concrete, though. It also means being able to cut the cost of the process, allowing for less material to be needed. This could make expensive construction projects much more affordable in areas all around the world.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.