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Nanotechnology trends in the cement industry

World Cement,

The study behind the report focused on identifying nanomaterials for property enhancement, emerging trends, the major patent assignees, and applications within the cement industry. In all, Nanowerk reported that 368 patents for cement-related nanotechnology have been filed since 2001, but since 2007, there has been a sharp increase in patents filed in this area. This shows that it is fast becoming a strong area of research, and indeed, of the total number, 154 patents have been granted. The increase in research within this still-young field is also, perhaps, symptomatic of the industry-wide needs to lower emissions in the face of tightening standards and lower costs in light of the current worldwide financial climate. Nanotechnology could potentially hold the answers.

The patent analysis, restricted to nanotechnology applications in hydraulic cement, found that the majority of these patents were filed in the area of composite cement, with 74 patents and OPC, with 71. Patents filed for nanotechnology in gypsum-based cement only amounted to 27, though. This in itself highlights an interesting trend, showing composite cements as leading the way into the nanotech era.

Geographically speaking, it is perhaps unsurprising that China is leading the way, with 154 patents. Its closest rivals are South Korea, with 55 patents and the US, with 51.

The report also outlined the specific nanomaterials that have had patents filed based on their use. By far the most popular is nano-silica, which counts CO2 reduction among its properties. The fact that there have been 125 patents filed based on the application of the material shows just what a strong priority CO2 reduction has become for the cement industry. Nano-silica also has the potential to raise the strength of cements into which it is integrated. 19% of the patents focus on materials with high strength as a characteristic. Second overall in the material stakes, are carbon nanotubes, with 71 patents filed in the name of their integration into cement.

As the report’s concluding remarks reveal, 60% of these patents were filed by corporations, representative of the high rate of commercialisation that is coming to dominate the field. Naturally, backed by an ever increasing corporate interest, the field is well sponsored and likely to grow apace in the years to come

Though some nanotech-based cements have already begun to emerge on the market, these have mainly been developed with a focus on their mechanical properties, such as improvements in tensile strength, corrosion resistance, crack resistance, heat resistance and high strength. Future nanotechnology developments in the cement industry are likely to continue this trend, but place additional importance on overcoming the environmental issues of traditional cements. Increased durability and the reduction of CO2 emissions will not only help to meet the strict modern standards, and perhaps-stricter future ones, but also have the potential to reduce production costs. Nanotechnology is still in its early days, but the patent analysis revealed by Nanowerk’s report shows that its exponents mean business and that the future looks set to see a cement industry occupied by nanotechnology in a substantial way.

Written by Jack Davidson.

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