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In response to the need for more resilient design, materials are becoming stronger and more sustainable. Innovation like this stronger concrete is attractive to builders, developers and investors. Because it's stronger, less needs to be used, which can offset costs of the new technology. And, when less is used, less carbon is released.

Purdue University researchers studying whether concrete is made stronger by infusing it with microscopic-sized nanocrystals from wood are moving from the laboratory to the real world with a bridge that will be built in California this spring.

The researchers have been working with cellulose nanocrystals, byproducts generated by the paper, bioenergy, agriculture and pulp industries, to find the best mixture to strengthen concrete, the most common man-made material in the world.

"Simply getting out there where people can actually drive on it, I think, is a huge step because you can't just say it's a lab curiosity at that point. It has real-world implications," said Jeffrey Youngblood, a Purdue professor of materials engineering.

Strengthening concrete could have other implications, such as making items made with concrete thinner and lighter while retaining the same strength with a potential side benefit of decreasing carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Cement plants account for an estimated 8 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide, a main cause of climate change.

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