An Interview with
Dr. Olaf Hetche on the Path to COReduction 


Global Technical Manager, Construction
IMCD Coatings & Construction

Rising demand for low-carbon products is causing manufacturers to look for ways to reduce carbon footprint of dry-mix products.

Q: What makes the reduction of carbon footprint in dry mix mortars an important subject for IMCD?


Dr. Olaf Hetche: The cement industry is a primary contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, making it crucial to address not only concrete applications but also dry-mix mortar products. 

Over the past 50 years, especially in dry-mix mortar applications, manufacturers have relied primarily on cement with high clinker content for controlling curing and hardening rates. However, they are now seeking ways to minimize clinker usage due to its carbon emissions during both production and the decarbonization process. 

Incorporating clinker substitutes into cementitious products is a promising way to reduce emissions, but there are drawbacks related to material reactivity in dry-mix mortar products. The challenge lies not in the cement, aggregates, or additives alone, but rather in the overall system's performance. 

To put it into perspective, think of it like an orchestra: To create a complete artistic experience, you need different instruments, singers, and more. Similarly, in dry-mix mortar products, the choice of additives is crucial in influencing the overall system's performance. We have various additives at our disposal to it.   

As a global distributor and formulator of speciality  chemicals, we are convinced that the sustainability challenges we face today can only be tackled in collaboration. With our knowledge, portfolio, and laboratory network, we are well-equipped to assist the industry in transitioning to more sustainable cementitious formulations. We place a high priority on identifying the optimal dry-mix mortar composition to accommodate the varying reactivities of reduced-clinker cements in our laboratories.  

Q: How do we translate this need in the laboratory?


Dr. OH: Cement Types II, III, and IV are well-established standardized products that manufacturers have used  for decades. However, they primarily used these products in concrete and precast elements technology, rather than in dry-mix mortar applications.  

In our laboratory, we create various cementitious formulations tailored to specific applications where the clinker content is reduced by incorporating supplementary cementitious materials.  

In the dry-mix mortar and construction chemicals industry, it is crucial to assess and monitor material properties in the first three to six hours after mixing with water, as opposed to concrete applications that focus on the system's performance in a matter of days. 

At IMCD, we have Ultrasonic Cells to monitor the curing behaviour of raw materials and measure their dimensional stability over time. This allows us to evaluate new formulations, gain a deeper understanding of how these materials function in dry-mix mortar applications, and make informed recommendations on additives that meet our customers' standards.
 
 

Ultrasonic Cells Monitor

“We have Ultrasonic Cells to monitor the curing behaviour of raw materials and measure their dimensional stability over time. This allows us to evaluate new formulations, gain a deeper understanding of how these materials function in dry mix mortar applications.”

Q: What raw materials do you look for to meet the standards for reduced-clinker cement?


Dr. OH: We look for materials that have an influence on the overall reactivity of the binder or that even enhance it. More precisely, we use two kinds of raw materials in our laboratory: speciality  additives that enhance the performance of the reactivity in the ratio of the clinker and blended cements, and ones that do not further reduce the reactivity of the cement.

When we further reduce the proportion of the reactive components in the cement binder, the number of possible variations increases significantly.  

Professionals working with cement, aggregates, or mineral products are accustomed to dealing with variations in their materials, whether their particle size or reactivity. However, the diversity in product quality stemming from different manufacturing plants and various types of cement presents a significant challenge for additive producers. 

As we aim to reduce our impact on carbon dioxide levels, it becomes increasingly crucial to gain a deeper understanding of the range of product quality and how it affects the performance of the final product.
 

Additives

“As we aim to reduce our impact on carbon dioxide levels, it becomes increasingly crucial to gain a deeper understanding of the range of product quality and how it affects the performance of the final product.”

Q: Are there any ongoing laboratory projects related to this subject that you are currently involved in? 


Dr. OH: We've initiated the screening of various raw materials for carbon dioxide-reduced cement products, but there is still significant work ahead to gain a deeper understanding of the ongoing processes. Using the previous analogy, it's like preparing an orchestra.
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About the interviewee:


Dr. Olaf Hetche is the Global Technical Manager Construction at IMCD Group heading the construction laboratory network and technical support. He is the inventor of Hombicure and will introduce you to everything you need to know about this solution.

He joined IMCD in 2012 with techno-commercial responsibility for construction chemicals in Germany. In 2015 he added a European Business Development role to his responsibilities, focussing on enhancing IMCD’s product portfolio in construction chemicals.  Olaf holds a Ph.D in Organometallic Chemistry & Chemical Engineering from the Technical University of Darmstadt.

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