Researchers turn glass back into sand to make concrete

A new technique promises to put wasted glass to good use, by turning it into concrete that can be used in industrial flooring and for building roads and car parks. 

Researchers in Australia turned glass that would have gone to waste back into sand to be used in polymer concrete.

Polymer concrete is a type of concrete that uses polymers, typically resins, to replace lime-type cement as a binder.   

Polymer concrete is a high strength, water-resistant material suited to areas with heavy traffic such as service stations and airports. 

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A new technique promises to put wasted glass to good use, by turning it into concrete that can be used in industrial flooring and for building roads and car parks. Researchers in Australia turned recycled bottles and other glass back into sand to be used in polymer concrete

A new technique promises to put wasted glass to good use, by turning it into concrete that can be used in industrial flooring and for building roads and car parks. Polymer concrete is a type of concrete that uses polymers, typically resins, to replace lime-type cement as a binder

HOW IS CONCRETE MADE?

In its simplest form, concrete is a mixture of paste and aggregates, or rocks. 

The paste, composed of cement and water, coats the surface of the fine and coarse aggregates. 

Through a chemical reaction called hydration, the paste hardens and gains strength to form the rock-like mass known as concrete.

Within this process lies the key to a remarkable trait of concrete: it’s plastic and malleable when newly mixed, strong and durable when hardened. 

These qualities explain why one material, concrete, can build skyscrapers, bridges, sidewalks and superhighways, houses and dams.

Polymer concrete is a type of concrete that uses polymers, typically resins, to replace lime-type cement as a binder.

Lecturer Dr Riyadh Al-Ameri, from the Deakin School of Engineering, Victoria, said the invention was also ‘a potential substitute’ for regular sand in concrete. 

‘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.’

‘Worldwide, the construction industry represents six per cent of global GDP, according to the World Economic Forum.

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

‘Mined sand requires washing and grading before it is added to aggregate, cement and water to make concrete.

‘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.

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

Researchers in Australia turned glass that would have gone to waste back into sand to be used in polymer concrete (stock image)

Researchers in Australia turned glass that would have gone to waste back into sand to be used in polymer concrete (stock image) 

Engineering student Dikshit Modgil worked with Melbourne-based Orca Civil Products as part of his Master’s research.

Orca Civil Products Director Alan Travers said the partnership produced results useful in taking the concept further to commercialisation.

He said: ‘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.

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

Dr Al-Ameri added the next stage of their 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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