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Sustainable Concrete from Desert Sands

Converting desert sands for building materials use while storing CO2
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Project Description



Principal Investigators

Jorge Gascon

William McDonough


Sand is a critical building material used in modern city features like shopping malls, offices, roads, and housing. Desert sands, like those found in Saudi Arabia, are the wrong shape and size to be useful in construction. Building materials manufacturing also accounts for 11% of global CO2 emissions.

Every year 50 billion tons of sand and gravel are used in construction and use has tripled over the last 20 years. Converting local desert sands into a viable source of concrete creates new opportunities for the Saudi building materials industry.

KAUST has developed the technology to convert the unusable small, smooth, round particles of local desert sand into the larger, rougher particles necessary for concrete production. This creates an entirely new source of building material for Saudi Arabia.
This KAUST technology has the environmental benefit of storing CO2 as part of the sand conversion process. This eliminates what otherwise would be a source of greenhouse gas emissions that are warming our planet. This creates new opportunities for the Saudi building materials industry to fight climate change.