Environment

Old glass may find use in new, better concrete

Old glass may find use in new,...
The scientists utilized types of glass that were unsuitable for traditional recycling
The scientists utilized types of glass that were unsuitable for traditional recycling
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The scientists utilized types of glass that were unsuitable for traditional recycling
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The scientists utilized types of glass that were unsuitable for traditional recycling
The glass-based  polymer concrete was found to be significantly stronger than its traditional sand-based counterpart
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The glass-based  polymer concrete was found to be significantly stronger than its traditional sand-based counterpart

Although glass is thought of as being relatively eco-friendly because it's recyclable, the fact is that a lot of it doesn't get recycled – this is particularly true of small fragments, that are too fiddly to sort. Now, however, scientists are suggesting that glass waste could be used to make concrete that's stronger and cheaper than ever.

Led by Dr. Riyadh Al-Ameri, researchers at Australia's Deakin University started with various pieces of non-recyclable glass, then ground them up into a coarse powder. They then utilized that powder as an aggregate in polymer concrete, in place of the sand that's normally used. Polymer concrete itself substitutes polymer resin for cement as a binding agent, and is typically used in applications such as waterproof flooring.

When the glass-based polymer concrete was subsequently tested, it was found to be significantly stronger than its traditional sand-based counterpart.

The glass-based  polymer concrete was found to be significantly stronger than its traditional sand-based counterpart
The glass-based  polymer concrete was found to be significantly stronger than its traditional sand-based counterpart

Additionally, because sand has to be mined, washed and graded, it was determined that use of the ground glass resulted in lower concrete production costs. What's more, while a shortage of appropriate sand has been predicted, there are currently stockpiles of old glass that are just sitting around unprocessed.

"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," says Al-Ameri. "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."

In fact, Deakin isn't the first Australian university to explore the use of recycled glass in concrete. Earlier this year, scientists at the University of Queensland announced a method of rendering glass waste into liquid silicate, which could then be utilized in applications including a concrete sealant.

Source: Deakin University

7 comments
Mr T
This is actually a no-brainer, it's bleeding obvious actually. Amazing it takes a university to point this out to the industry.
Wombat56
Ground glass and recycled soft plastics are also being used in experimental recycled asphalt. It's a mixture of ripped up asphalt from resurfaced roads, glass, plastic and some virgin asphalt material. Performance is supposed to be as good as all-new asphalt material.
christopher
"non-recyclable" eh? Heat it up and it melts. What "non-recyclable" about that? And not to state the bleeding obvious - glass is *made* of sand...
Chompacabra
That's odd. I had proposed this idea to a company I worked for over 10 years ago and talking online at the time I wasn't the only one who had similar ideas. I got out of trash/recycling work but I thought that the idea would have taken off years ago. Life is weird yo.
toyhouse
Haven't they added and tested all manner of additives to concrete for many-many years now - with recycled glass being one of the first? They've added recycled car-tire rubber, recycled plastic bottles and the list goes on and on. I can't help but think this is old news. Sorry to come-off pessimistic sounding. Sounds like a great idea - I just thought they had already done it long ago and were already marketing-it. Guess not.
Gannet
and for the matrix, there's this http://www.tececo.com.au/index.php
tomtoys
And, maybe, if powered glass were stuck onto the inside of a concrete beam mould, before the usual mixture were poured in, it would make the outside of the concrete more attractive. Could be a mixture of powdered glass and glue could be sprayed onto existing structures.