Vecor develops coal fly ash building material

Green technology company Vecor has developed a recycled building material with remanufactured coal fly ash.

Vecor Founder and CEO Alex Koszo said the company’s patented and fully industrialised technologies provide profitability to otherwise environmentally destructive industrial by-products.

“It is estimated that over 300 million tonnes of the ultra-fine coal fly ash particles are dumped each year, where it may pollute the soil, water and air with harmful elements such as arsenic, mercury and lithium,” Mr Koszo said.

“A great multiple of this tonnage is sitting in lakes and unlined landfills all over the industrialised world, requiring remediation.”

Mr Koszo said Vecor are using the material to manufacture building products suitable for multiple industrial hardware applications, as part of their grey to green vision.

“The innovations underpinning Vecor’s technology span the disciplines of material science, chemistry and industrial hardware,” Mr Koszo said.

“With technology originally conceived at the University of New South Wales, and further developed at its proprietary laboratories, Vecor has developed and patented six highly competitive product applications with 50 to 99 per cent recycled content.”

Applications include ceramic tiles, refractories, industrial ceramics, fillers for paint and plastics, aggregates and sand.

“The sintering step of Vecor’s process has been independently proven to render all harmful and toxic elements in the fly ash completely and permanently inert,” Mr Koszo said.

According to Mr Koszo, in addition to providing a solution to the coal fly ash waste problem, Vecor’s technology promotes sustainability in the highly resource intensive porcelain tile industry.

“Our product consumes 50 per cent less virgin raw material, 85 per cent less water and 15 per cent less energy compared to the porcelain tile manufacturing process, translating into a significant manufacturing cost advantage,” Mr Koszo said.

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Recycling biosolids into bricks

Image Credit: RMIT University

New research has found a way of turning biosolids from sewage into cheaper, higher performing bricks suitable for the construction industry.

A research team from RMIT University has developed a fired-clay brick as a sustainable solution for the wastewater treatment and brickmaking industries.

The bricks are made up of biosolids, a by-product of the wastewater treatment process, and were found to have a lower thermal conductivity than other bricks, meaning they will transfer less heat and potentially give buildings higher environmental performance.

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The research examined the physical, chemical and mechanical properties of fired-clay bricks incorporating different proportions of biosolids, from 10 to 25 per cent.

Researchers found brick firing energy demand was cut almost in half for bricks that incorporated 25 per cent biosolids, due to the organic content and could considerably reduce the carbon footprint of brick manufacturing companies.

Around five million tonnes of the biosolids in Australia, New Zealand, the EU, US and Canada currently go to landfill or stockpiles each year. By using a minimum of 15 per cent biosolids content in 15 per cent of the bricks produced, the research team estimates around five million tonnes could instead be used for construction.

The bricks have passed compressive strength tests and analysis demonstrated heavy metals are largely trapped within the brick. Biosolids can have significantly different chemical characteristics, so the researchers recommend further testing before large-scale production.

Lead investigator Associate Professor Abbas Mohajerani said the research sought to tackle two environmental issues – the stockpiles of biosolids and the excavation of soil required for brick production.

“More than 3 billion cubic metres of clay soil is dug up each year for the global brickmaking industry, to produce about 1.5 trillion bricks,” Mohajerani said.

“Using biosolids in bricks could be the solution to these big environmental challenges.

“It’s a practical and sustainable proposal for recycling the biosolids currently stockpiled or going to landfill around the globe,” he said.

The results of a comparative Life Cycle Assessment and an emissions study conducted as part of the research confirmed biosolids bricks offered a sustainable alternative approach to addressing the environmental impacts of biosolids management and brick manufacturing.

The research, funded by RMIT University, Melbourne Water and Australian Government Research Training Program scholarships, is published in the “Green Building Materials Special Issue” of Buildings.

Pictured: Associate Professor Abbas Mohajerani. Image Credit: RMIT University