Scientists test new concrete with tiny wood particles in SC

December 8, 2018 GMT

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — A parking lot in South Carolina is being used to test a new type of concrete infused with microscopic particles of wood.

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities owns the parking lot in Greenville and is partnering with federal officials, Oregon State University and Purdue University to test the material.

Scientists take wood and, in a process similar to papermaking, reduce it to nanoparticles more than 15,000 times smaller than the head of a pin. The tiny particles are then mixed into concrete.


Early research into nanoparticles show they maintain the strongest components of the material they come from, said United States Department of Agriculture scientist Alan Rudie.

“Researchers are testing these cellulosic nanomaterials in a wide range of applications from substrate for flexible computer chips, to composites for car and airplane bodies, lighter and stronger than steel,” Rudie said in a statement. “Our team expects that concrete will be among the first commercial applications.”

The wood nanoparticles should make concrete stronger. Early tests show a 15 percent gain in product strength, said Jason Weiss of Oregon State University.

The parking lot will be built later this month and tested side-by-side with a parking lot of regular concrete.

The Greenville project is the biggest of three parking lots the endowment is testing.

“We are excited to be spotlighting Greenville in this project,” said Carlton Owen, the group’s president. “This test aims to show what the future of sustainability can be.”