Meru varsity researchers make clay-based cement

By Phares Mutembei | Feb 20, 2024
Clay-based cement laboratory at Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST). [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

Scientists at Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST) have innovated clay-based cement, to address climate change and lower the cost of housing.

The innovation aims at offering alternative climate-friendly and cheaper cement to address the rising demand for affordable housing.

Dr Joseph Mwiti, who is in charge of TRC Africa at the university, which is supporting the uptake of Limestone Calcined Clay Cement (LC3) in Sub-Saharan Africa, exuded confidence that the cement will be in the market and will go a long way in mitigating effects of climate change.

Mwiti is also the director of the Institute of Cement and Concrete at the varsity.

He said the innovation targets to reduce the clinker, the solid material in the manufacture of conventional cement, which is blamed for high emission of carbon dioxide.

Mwiti explained that by switching to clay-based cement, the industry will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and the cost of production.

“Cement industry emits between six and eight per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, and it places the cement industry as the third polluting industry in the world,” he said.

Scientists from Israel, Switzerland and Cuba visited  MUST’s main campus in Nchiru, Tigania West sub-county for the opening of the alternative cement laboratory and resource cement.

The centre will host scientists, who are putting final touches to the product and serve as a resource centre for the innovation that they hope to commercialise and supply to Africa.

The partners have been working together to develop the product.

Mwiti said the resource centre will be dedicated to supporting the uptake of limestone calcined clay cement in Sub-Saharan Africa.

He said after the cement is tested at laboratory and industrial scale using state-of-the-art equipment, with the aim of mass production.

“LC3 is cost-saving. We will be able to realise affordable housing and other essential infrastructure that we require in the built environment. This type of cement has the potential to also set up new industries where we have clay. As it is, cement industries are located in some localised places along the Rift Valley and along the Coast of Kenya,” he said. “We have a chance to set up cement industries in the northern part of Kenya and places where we have a lot of clay. That means job creation and development.”

The don said harnessing readily available clay will reduce clinker imports.

“We have for a long time been importing the clinker, and the prices of cement have been prone to price volatility due to fluctuations in the international market. But now we have a chance to use less clinker and lower the cost of cement,” he said.

“We are part of the fight against climate change, and part of the solution to the much-needed cement, because it is a major ingredient in construction, in terms of cost and in terms of accessing it in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Mwiti said.

Karen Scrivener of EPFL, a university in Switzerland, hailed the launch of the centre.

“It should help Africa to develop this important material which can address the huge need for housing with minimum climate impact. We have to look at climate, but we cannot forget people need houses,” Scrivener said.

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