Research: A Concrete plan for more environmentally-friendly construction


MORE environmentally-friendly concrete could be created through adding ceramic waste powder to the mix, according to research by a United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) student who says the idea has the potential to cut CO2 emissions.

The discovery was made by Sama Tarek Sayed Taha Aly, who completed her Master of Science degree in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at UAEU in Al Ain, with her findings claiming that the powder produced during the process of polishing ceramic tiles can then be put to use in the construction industry — and it could be a possible alternative to more-expensive cement that contributes to the UAE’s sustainability agenda.

She conducted tests that showed ceramic waste powder can be used to successfully produce self-compacted concrete (SCC) — which is regarded as a high-quality, more flexible, and more sustainable building material — with “improved fresh and hardened properties”. Her findings revealed that the mixture developed through this process is denser, absorbs less liquid, and has high strength.

“The development of SCC is considered a milestone achievement in concrete technology, due to the multiple advantages it offers,” said Ms. Aly in the research paper she has produced on the subject. “However, the use of excess amounts of cement will greatly increase the cost of materials and influence other vital properties. As a substitute, other filler materials have been a research focus for many years to evaluate their efficiency in the SCC industry.”

Ms. Aly explained that there is now a global trend of using recycled materials in construction, as this contributes to sustainable waste management and reduces the strain on landfill sites, while also leaving less of an environmental footprint than cement, the production of which requires high-energy consumption. She pointed out that a single UAE ceramic factory alone produces 10,000 tons of ceramic powder every year, with its disposal creating an additional environmental issue.

To analyze the potential for this powder to be used in concrete production, Ms. Aly used it as both an additional and replacement substance in trials. She evaluated the performance of the concrete created through this process by testing aspects such as its strength, shrinkage when drying, and durability, with 10 different SCC mixtures being produced.

Ms. Aly also created a Performance Index, intended to outline the optimum amount of ceramic waste powder in different SCC mixtures for various uses, and said the results “shed light on the feasibility of reusing industrial solid waste materials as a concrete ingredient”, as a step toward producing more eco-friendly building materials. She concluded that ceramic waste powder has the potential to replace up to 60 percent of the cement used in concrete production, without compromising on strength and durability.

“This could offer alternatives for disposing of ceramic waste powder in an environmentally-friendly way, in addition to increasing people’s awareness of the availability of such waste materials and encouraging them to develop new ways and ideas for utilizing and reusing ceramic waste powder effectively in the construction industry,” she said in her research thesis.

Founded in 1976 by the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, UAEU is a comprehensive, research-intensive university enrolling about 14,000 Emirati and international students. As the UAE’s flagship university, UAEU offers a full range of accredited, high-quality graduate and undergraduate programs through nine Colleges: Business and Economics; Education; Engineering; Food and Agriculture; Humanities and Social Sciences; IT; Law; Medicine and Health Sciences; and Science. With a distinguished international faculty, state-of-the art new campus, and full range of student support services, UAEU offers a living-learning environment that is unmatched in the UAE.

As a research-intensive university of international stature, UAEU works with its partners in industry to provide research solutions to challenges faced by the nation, the region, and the world. The University has established research centers of strategic importance to the country and the region which are advancing knowledge in critical areas ranging from water resources to cancer treatments. UAEU is currently ranked the No. 1 university in UAE, No. 6 in the Arab world, and No. 390 globally.

UAEU’s academic programs have been developed in partnership with employers, so its graduates are in high demand. UAEU alumni hold key positions in industry, commerce, and government throughout the region. Its continuing investments in facilities, services, and staff ensure that UAEU will continue to serve as a model of innovation and excellence. — SG