An inorganic materials and environmental (MIMED) research team, made up of six lecturers from the Department of Chemistry and Soil Science at the Univ. of Navarra, has detected a biodegradable additive that enhances the properties of cement for construction. The discovery has given rise to a patent, registered with the World Intellectual Property Organization under the title, Use of carboxymethyl chitosans as additives in conglomerate compositions.
To understand the efficacy of this finding, lecturer José Álvarez, one of the participants in the research, explains that, “In the systems with cement (mortars and concretes), the additive increases the viscosity of the mixture and accelerates its setting. What it does is to avoid the segregation of the components of mortars and concretes and facilitate their application in reducing the hardening time.” He also points out that “some of these additives have shown good efficacy simultaneously in the retention of toxic metals, such as lead, zinc and chromium.”
In environmental terms, Álvarez further pointed out that, “The additive turns out to be a more favorable alternative to cellulose derivatives, and is useful for blocking heavy metals and their toxic effects.”
The results of the research have been published in high-impact journals in the fields of Environment and Construction Materials such as the Journal of Hazardous Materials, Cement and Concrete Research.
The MIMED team is working on modified and enhanced construction materials, particularly on conglomerates, cements, limes and on additives that can enhance their performances. Currently, their research is focused on a project on additives with a photocatalytic function, in order to destroy nitrogen oxides and other atmospheric contaminants, after being incorporated into cements and/or lime mortars. This was, undertaken with the research team of the professor of Inorganic Chemistry, Luis Granados at the Univ. of Cordoba.