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Saturday, 25 January 2020
Raw materials & technologies, Applications

Curing concrete cancer

Monday, 30 May 2016

Canadian researchers have found a more reliable way to make concrete from discarded glass.

Anant Parghi (left) and Prof. Shahria Alam hold up a piece of 'green' concrete and some of the glass that helped make it. Source: UCB

Anant Parghi (left) and Prof. Shahria Alam hold up a piece of 'green' concrete and some of the glass that helped make it. Source: UCB

In a study, researchers from the University of British Columbia (UCB) were able to calm a chemical reaction that has traditionally caused glass-fed concrete to weaken, expand and crack, a reaction known as concrete cancer.

Making smarter building materials

"Every year, millions of tons of glass bypass recycling centres and end up in North American landfills,” says Assoc. Prof. of Engineering Shahria Alam. "Like many engineers, we are interested in making smarter building materials that can give the construction industry the resources they need without necessarily having to take new resources out of the ground. "Researchers have been looking for a long time for ways to reliably make use of glass in concrete construction, and we believe that this research represents a significant advancement in that search.”

Optimal replacement of cement

Concrete cancer occurs when the alkaline properties in cement paste react with silica properties that can occur in recycled concrete additives, such as glass. In their study, Alam and co-researcher Anant Parghi, found that by adding a water-based, synthetic rubber polymer, fly ash, and silica powder to the concrete mixture, they were able to effectively neutralise negative chemical reactions.

"By partially replacing cement with polymer, fly ash and glass powder, we were able to produce concrete that was more than 60 percent stronger than what was previously believed possible,” says Parghi. "Though further testing is needed to assess long-term stability, it now looks like we can replace up to 25 percent of the cement materials that had to be mined for cement production with glass.”

Alam and Parghi’s study was recently published in the journal Construction and Building Materials.

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