The construction industry, one of the largest consumers of unrenewable energy, plays a large role in the European Union’s agenda for addressing climate change and sustainable growth. While reducing the environmental impact of producing building materials is an active research initiative, transferring that to construction products takes time.

To that end, researchers Julieta António, Ph.D.; Guillermo Bastos, Ph.D.; João Almeida, Ph.D.; António Tadeu, Ph.D.; Beatriz Marques, Ph.D.; Arlindo Marques; Julia Armesto, Ph.D.; and Faustino Patiño-Barbeito, Ph.D., conducted a series of experiments to evaluate using charcoal and limestone dust (a waste material) in cement-based composites for building applications, to improve their sustainability. Their paper published in the Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering, entitled “Influence of Different Dosages of Limestone Dust and Charcoal on the Properties of Lightweight Cement Composites,” presents the characterization of this new lightweight cement composite.

Read about their results which cover mechanical strength, water vapor permeability and water absorption, thermal conductivity, ignitability by direct small flame, and the potential release of dangerous substances in the abstract below or by reading the full paper in the ASCE Library:


This paper presents the characterization of new lightweight cement composites incorporating limestone dust and charcoal. The charcoal is used not only to make the composite lighter in weight but also to improve its hygrothermal performance. Additionally, limestone dust, a waste material, is used instead of sand in the mixtures to improve their sustainability. Results show that the limestone-charcoal-cement composites have low thermal conductivity, while retaining good mechanical strength, high water vapor permeability, and low flammability. It was also found that these composites do not release dangerous substances in concentrations that jeopardize the safety of the environment or human health. Overall, the results suggest that the new limestone-charcoal-cement composites can be applied as lightweight screeds and other construction solutions, such as mortars or plasters that do not require high mechanical strength.

Read the full paper in the ASCE Library: