Researchers develop concrete solution for recycled glass

Deakin School of Engineering researchers have found ground waste glass can be used as a substitute for sand when making polymer concrete – a material commonly used in industrial flooring.

Senior engineering lecturer Dr Riyadh Al-Ameri said the addition of glass resulted in a stronger product that was less costly to produce.

“This research provides the evidence the construction industry needs to see the potential of glass as a substitute for sand when making polymer concrete and, potentially, concrete,” Dr Al-Ameri said.

“Concrete is a major construction material and sand is one of its primary components, so finding an alternative to sand makes good economic sense.”

Polymer concrete uses polymers, typically resins, to replace lime-type cements as a binder.

According to Dr Al-Ameri, this produces a high strength, water-resistant material suited to industrial flooring and infrastructure drainage, particularly in areas subject to heavy traffic such as service stations, forklift operating areas and airports.

“We have found that substituting sand with ground recycled glass makes the polymer concrete stronger and is a sustainable use of one of the major types of recyclables in the domestic waste stream,” Dr Al-Ameri said.

“Any changes that reduce the cost of production will lead to significant gains across the industry, potentially on a global scale.”

Deakin Engineering student Dikshit Modgil worked with Melbourne-based Orca Civil Products as part of his masters research into the suitability of recyclable glass in polymer concrete production.

Orca Civil Products Director Alan Travers said the research partnership had produced results that would be useful in taking the concept further to commercialisation.

“The specific type of waste glass used in this project was unsuitable for recycling back into glass and the amount that is stockpiling is becoming a community problem,” Mr Travers said.

“The concept has even more appeal to us because of predicted shortages of natural, mined sands in the medium term.”

Dr Al-Ameri said the next stage of Deakin’s research would look at substitutes for the aggregate in polymer concrete, optimising the substitution rate, assessing durability, and the commercialisation of the new product.

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Waste sulfur polymers to assist plastic recycling

A new study published in Chemistry – A European Journal, suggests the problem of plastic waste could be addressed via waste sulfur polymers.

Study co-director Justin Chalker of Flinders University said researchers are working to develop a range of versatile and recyclable materials by controlling physical and mechanical properties, bringing them closer to scale up for manufacturing.

“Polymers made from elemental sulfur have emerged as versatile materials for energy storage, optics applications, environmental remediation and agriculture,” Mr Chalker said.

“Controlling their properties takes a big step towards these new polymers being able to replace plastics, rubber and ceramics that are currently unrecyclable.”

According to Mr Chalker, research found the new polymers could be broken down and reformed into new materials.

“This represents a new era in recyclable materials made from renewable building blocks such as plant oils and industry by-products such as sulfur,” Mr Chalker said.

University of Liverpool collaborator Tom Hasell said the research is another important set towards taking sulfur-based polymers out of lab, for use in every-day practical material.

“Being able to produce polymers from sulfur – a waste product of the petrochemical industry – is a really exciting opportunity, both for the environment and for creating more sustainable products and industries,” Mr Hasell said.

“Almost every household item has some kind of plastic polymer plastic in them and making polymers from sulfur, not carbon, opens doors into a new frontier of possibilities.”

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