The Secret Ingredients
Our industry is always about huge numbers: 4 gigatons of cement produced, millions of tons of aggregates added to that cement to form even more tons of concrete ... and so on and so forth. With all these gigaton numbers we sometimes tend to forget about the importance of those relatively small volumes of magic secret ingredients from the chemical realm which do have a significant influence on performance, durability, workability and – not least – the CO2 footprint of the building materials industry.
All through the production process from raw material to the final structural building material, chemicals do play a decisive role in our industry – and it may well be, that this importance will still grow in the near future. New chemical systems and new chemical processes can reduce the volume of concrete needed for structures, maybe they help reducing CO2 emission from clinker manufacture or replace combustion-based calcination? Maybe they help boosting the production of geo-polymers and thereby replace a portion of Portland cement clinker with its CO2 footprint? Suddenly we start seriously discussing alternative ways of producing building materials – and that is absolutely right and necessary! Like always it will challenge many of our well-adopted positions inside our comfort zone, and like always there will be a lot of screaming and rejection. But in the end the fundamentals will rule – climate change is nothing to discuss with, it is nothing to duck away from and hope it just passes by. It will separate those who take action from those who try to evade an inconvenient but inevitable truth. And it can make those who actively adapt to this epochal change very rich …