In a merge of athletics and academia, Mississippi State University is quietly an inspiration for history.
As the athletic department expands and renovates its football stadium, the future of Davis Wade Stadium may also contribute to the future of concrete materials, thanks to the collaborative effort of an MSU faculty member, a pair of alumni, a PhD student, a construction company and the athletic department.
“Green concrete,” as in eco-friendly, not the color, is a focus of concrete development worldwide, and advancements in the field have happened at MSU, where they are now using some fairly innovative concrete in the expansion and renovation of the football stadium.
Dr. Isaac L. Howard, materials and construction industries chair at MSU, said the project began in early 2012, and it was last fall when the opportunity for the group to use their development in Davis Wade arose.
The details of their work are many and deep, but the desired result is simple.
“There’s been a shift worldwide to try and manufacture greener concrete,” Howard said. “But previously, the goal for eco-friendly concrete was mostly to be close to or as good as more traditional concrete, not to be better.”
In most cases, you either got high performance or extra environmental benefits, not both.
Now, Howard’s team is replacing the or with and, creating concrete both rich in performance and environmentally friendly.
“It’s fairly innovative,” Howard said. “What’s being done at Davis Wade Stadium is of interest to the industry at large.”
The other players in the story are Harrell Contracting Group – the company in charge of construction for the stadium – and the MSU athletic department, the group facilitating the adventure, naturally.
The key ingredient being studied by the aforementioned team is portland-limestone cement, or PLC, which is the primary “glue” holding all other ingredients together.
Tests on stadium concrete made with PLC, Howard said, show not only that it worked fine, but that it’s strength was even higher than that of concrete made with traditional “glue”. To date, only a small amount of PLC has been used in the stadium.
More of the MSU team’s concrete is expected to be used as expansion and renovation continues, making Davis Wade Stadium the symbol of this creation.
Three main factors are involved in the making of the concrete, starting with the reduction of carbon dioxide produced during portland cement production, and also in reducing the amount of cement used, thus making it “green.”
One of the ways it’s done is by using byproducts from various industries as part of the total cementing materials to create a portion of the concrete. Most concrete produced has less than 35 percent byproducts as part of the total cementing materials, while a significant portion of the concrete being used at Davis Wade is made with 50 to 70 percent byproduct cementing materials.
The second involves the use of portland-limestone cement resulting in reduced content of an ingredient called clinker. Clinker production results in noticeable amounts of carbon dioxide.
On their own, Howard said, most of the individual changes and manners of production are not unique. What’s different about their group is using them together, in addition to the high percentages of byproduct and replacement of some of the clinker with ground limestone.
“Individually,” he said, “these measures are all useful. But we’re finding out that all of it put together, with our own tweaks, forms something greater than the sum of the individual parts (i.e. synergies).”
When Davis Wade Stadium hosts its first home game on Saturday, fans will not just be standing in the future of Bulldog football, but also on what could be the future of concrete materials, a vehicle for entertainment, as well as an example of education and innovation.
And it all started at the same place – Mississippi State.