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Sustainable binders for concrete: A structured approach from waste screening to binder composition development

R. Vinai1, C. Panagiotopoulou2, M. Soutsos1, M. Taxiarchou2, M. Zervaki3, S.L.A. Valcke4, V. Chozas Ligero5, S. Couto6, A. Gupta7, P. Pipilikaki4, I. Larraza Alvarez5, D. Coelho6, J. Branquinho6

1 Queen’s University of Belfast, United Kingdom
2 National Technical University of Athens, Greece
3 IMERYS, Greece
4 TNO, the Netherlands
5 Acciona, Spain
6 CENTI, Portugal
7 BASF Construction Solutions GmbH, Germany

Worldwide, the building sector requires the production of 4 billion tonnes of cement annually, consuming more than 40% of global energy. Alkali activated “cementless” binders have recently emerged as a novel eco-friendly construction material with a promising potential to replace ordinary Portland cement. These binders consist of a class of inorganic polymer formed mainly by the reaction between an alkaline solution and an aluminosilicate source. Precursor materials for this reaction can be found in secondary material streams from different industrial sectors, from energy to agro-alimentary. However, the suitability of these materials in developing the polymerisation reaction must be assessed through a detailed chemical and physical characterisation, ensuring the availability of required chemical species in the appropriate quantity and physical state. Furthermore, the binder composition needs to be defined in terms of proper alkali activation dosages, water content in the mix, and curing conditions. The mix design must satisfy mechanical requirements and compliance to desired engineering properties (workability, setting time) for ensuring the suitability of the binder in replacing Portland cement in concrete applications. This paper offers a structured approach for the development of secondary material-based binders, from their identification to mix design and production procedure development. Essential features of precursor material can be determined through chemical and physical characterisation methods and advanced microscope techniques. Important mixing parameters and binder properties requirements are examined and some examples of developed binders are reported.

Key words: Geopolymer, alkali activated binder, microstructural analysis, chemical activation, binder development