Corn husks, stalks, and leaves could find a profitable use in the construction industry if tests being conducted out of the University of Nebraska-Kearney prove fruitful.
Assistant Professor Mahmoud Shakouri with university is leading a pair of research projects that will determine if leftover parts of the harvest can be incinerated and mixed with concrete to make it stronger. If the experiments test in the positive, Shakouri says the ashes of corn husks, stalks and leaves could be sold to construction companies by farmers, adding value to a part of the harvest normally thrown away sold for feed.
“It’s an added value to their, you know, their waste product.” says Shakouri.
Shakouri hopes ash from the corn waste can be used to replace a material known as fly ash, a byproduct from coal plants many in the construction industry currently use as a strengthener.
However, “with the recent bans on using coal in power plants, the amount of fly ash is going down.” says Shakouri.
If ash from corn waste could be used to fill the gap being left by fly ash, Shakouri says the crop could provide a sustainable, environmentally friendly strengthener. Shakouri says results should be in by next summer.
The studies are funded by a mix of state and federal grants.