Sustainable concrete construction – from recycled demolition aggregate to alkali activated binders
Soutsos, M; Vinai, R; Boyle, A; et al.Tang, K; Fulton, M
Date: 14 November 2018
Investigations into the economics, practicalities and technicalities of using recycled demolition aggregate in concrete precast products started in 2001. At that time, there were six demolition contractors around Liverpool and they were using mobile crushers which were suited for road subbase material but not for the smaller sized ...
Investigations into the economics, practicalities and technicalities of using recycled demolition aggregate in concrete precast products started in 2001. At that time, there were six demolition contractors around Liverpool and they were using mobile crushers which were suited for road subbase material but not for the smaller sized aggregate required for precast concrete products. It was estimated that if all six worked round the clock, i.e. assuming there was enough feed material, they would still have found it difficult to maintain the required supplies for a single precast factory. Investment in equipment was therefore required to guarantee supply and improve the quality of the recycled demolition aggregate. The market forces and the incentives/drivers for construction companies to adopt sustainable practises have encouraged investment of several million pounds to be made in new recycling plants and this has resulted in “urban quarries”. Work on reducing the carbon footprint of concrete construction needs to consider not only the replacement of the aggregate with recycled ones but also to consider a reduction or complete replacement of Portland cement in concrete mixes. Alkali activated binders and geopolymers have seen applications in ceramics, hazardous waste containment, fire-resistant construction materials and refractories but the most interesting application is their use to replace Portland cement-based concretes. Several factors affecting the reactivity of fly ash as a precursor for geopolymer concrete have been investigated. These include physical and chemical properties of various fly ash sources, inclusion of ground granulated blast furnace slag (ggbs), chemical activator dosages and curing temperature. Alkali-activated fly ash was found to require elevated curing temperatures and high alkali concentrations. A mixture of sodium hydroxide and sodium silicate was used and this was shown to result in high strengths, as high as 70 MPa at 28 days. The partial replacement of fly ash with ground granulated blast furnace slag (ggbs) was found to be beneficial in not only avoiding the need for elevated curing temperatures but also in improving compressive strengths. It became apparent that the main obstacle to commercialisation of these new alternative binders was the cost of the activating solutions, i.e. the sodium hydroxide and the sodium silicate. The latter is the most expensive one and results in geopolymer concretes that cannot compete on price with Portland cement concretes. Attempts therefore concentrated on developing a procedure for the production of sodium hydroxide from waste streams, which in this case was ground glass cullet. Production of eco-friendly concretes thus becomes commercially possible.
College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences
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