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WSU Explores Fly Ash in Concrete

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

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Recently, a Washington State University doctoral student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering was awarded for his research involving the substitute of fly ash for cement in concrete.

Sen Du received his award from the International Association of Chinese Infrastructure Professionals.

The Research

According to The Daily Evergreen, in his research Du was able to increase traditional fly substitutions in cement from 20% to 60%. This number was increased by adding nano-silica, which are nanoparticles of silicon dioxide and have strength and durability properties.

Asawin_Klabma / Getty Images

Recently, a Washington State University doctoral student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering was awarded for his research involving the substitute of fly ash for cement in concrete.

The experiment actually lowers the environmental impact of concrete by reducing the need for cement production, in addition to repurposing a material that otherwise might have be useless.

Du adds, “The fly ash is coal waste. It normally goes straight to the landfill. So being able to recycle it is really good … Since the production of the cement can cause a lot of CO2 to enter our air, when we use the fly ash to replace cement, we can reduce the CO2 emissions, which is great for our environment.”

In his method, Du added nano-silica to areas where the concrete was no longer strong in its use of fly ash, enabling him to increase the amounts of fly ash added as well.

Previous Fly Ash Research

Also at WSU, in 2018, the university reported that Xianming Shi, associate professor in WSU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and graduate student Gang Xu had developed a concrete using fly ash as a binder.

“The team used graphene oxide, a recently discovered nanomaterial, to manipulate the reaction of fly ash with water and turn the activated fly ash into a strong cement-like material. The graphene oxide rearranges atoms and molecules in a solution of fly ash and chemical activators like sodium silicate and calcium oxide,” the university noted.

Later that year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers, working in conjunction with scientists in Kuwait were reported to have found that pulverized volcanic rocks can serve as a sustainable additive that can reduce the energy that goes into producing concrete, thus lessening overall pollution.

What they found was that replacing 50% of traditional cement with volcanic ash with an average particle size of 17 micrometers could bring down concrete’s embodied energy by 16%. This compromised the strength of the concrete, however, and as a result they ground down the particles to 6 micrometers.

And last month, the Portland Cement Association announced that it would be opening a new educational campaign that aims to increase the awareness of the sustainability, resiliency and durability of concrete made with cement.

The campaign, entitled “Shaped by Concrete,” will feature “stories based on these themes, exploring how these construction materials shape the world around us to make our communities, cities and country better.”

The PCA says that the campaign will focus on concrete’s ability to meet sustainable development goals, decrease costs from natural disasters and assist with societal challenges.


Tagged categories: Cement; Colleges and Universities; concrete; NA; North America; Quality Control; Research; Research and development

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/3/2020, 8:45 AM)

While this is interesting, it runs contrary to industry trends because it only uses fresh/new (unhydrated) fly ash: Coal power plants are being shut down, significantly reducing the new fly ash available. From 2018->2019 power from coal dropped 18% in the USA. Research offering beneficial use of old stockpiled (hydrated) fly ash will be very useful.

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