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MIT Uses AI to Cut Concrete Emissions

Concrete emissions pertain to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and utilization of concrete, a highly prevalent construction material worldwide. Due to the energy-intensive processes involved in cement production and the chemical reactions occurring during concrete curing, the concrete industry contributes significantly to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, accounting for approximately 8 percent of global emissions.

Concrete primarily consists of cement, a byproduct of heating limestone (calcium carbonate) and other minerals at high temperatures in kilns. To generate the necessary heat for limestone decomposition, fossil fuels are often burned, resulting in CO2 emissions.

Emissions are also generated during the transportation of raw materials to cement plants and concrete to construction sites, including emissions from trucks, ships, and other vehicles in the concrete production supply chain.

Reducing concrete emissions through topology optimization may offer a solution, as demonstrated by MIT student Jackson Jewett. His work, highlighted in an institution press release, builds on his master's thesis and focuses on refining algorithms for designing concrete structures that use fewer materials, thereby lowering carbon emissions in the construction sector.

Topology optimization involves employing algorithms to create structures that meet performance requirements while minimizing resource consumption. Jackson Jewett, currently in the third year of his PhD program, is developing a reinforced concrete optimization algorithm as a centerpiece of his thesis. Although the process is challenging and time-consuming, it holds the potential to significantly reduce emissions.

Jewett's research seeks to identify efficient components for constructing structures like bridges and buildings, utilizing computational power while considering factors such as manufacturing costs. His prior experience as a structural engineer in New York City has instilled a practical approach to his work, aiming to implement solutions in real-world construction practices.

Recognizing the urgency of addressing emissions, Jewett emphasizes the need for timely implementation to mitigate the impact of rising global temperatures. His PhD research aims to establish a framework for achieving this within the realm of concrete construction. Additionally, he expresses a commitment to exploring sustainable materials and construction methods beyond his current project's scope.

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