Optimising the Performance of CO2-Cured Alkali-Activated Aluminosilicate Industrial By-Products as Precursors

Ghandy Lamaa, David Suescum-Morales, António P. C. Duarte, Rui Vasco Silva, and Jorge de Brito

Three industrial aluminosilicate wastes were studied as precursors to produce alkali-activated concrete: (i) electric arc furnace slag, (ii) municipal solid waste incineration bottom ashes, and (iii) waste glass rejects. These were characterized via X-ray diffraction and fluorescence, laser particle size distribution, thermogravimetric, and Fourier-transform infrared analyses. Distinctive combinations of anhydrous sodium hydroxide and sodium silicate solution were tried by varying the Na2O/binder ratio (8%, 10%, 12%, 14%) and SiO2/Na2O ratio (0, 0.5, 1.0, 1.5) to find the optimum solution for maximized mechanical performance. Specimens were produced and subjected to a three-step curing process: (1) 24 h thermal curing (70 °C), (2) followed by 21 days of dry curing in a climatic chamber (~21 °C, 65% RH), and (3) ending with a 7-day carbonation curing stage (5 ± 0.2% CO2; 65 ± 10% RH). Compressive and flexural strength tests were performed, to ascertain the mix with the best mechanical performance. The precursors showed reasonable bonding capabilities, thus suggesting some reactivity when alkali-activated due to the presence of amorphous phases. Mixes with slag and glass showed compressive strengths of almost 40 MPa. Most mixes required a higher Na2O/binder ratio for maximized performance, even though, contrary to expectations, the opposite was observed for the SiO2/Na2O ratio.

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