Low CO2 Acid Base Binders Made with Fly Ash

Portland cement (PC) is the ubiquitous binding material for constructions works in urban areas. It is, however, responsible for 5-10 % of all anthropogenic CO2 emissions, nearly half of which arise from the decomposition of calcareous raw materials, and the other half from kiln fuel combustion and cement clinker grinding operations. As such, PC production contributes to global warming and climate change. Lately, efforts to develop alternative binders with lower greenhouse gas emissions have gained interest. An important class of such binders is geopolymers, typically formed by activating natural or waste materials with suitable alkaline solutions. These binders can have very low CO2 emissions from grinding of the starting materials, and some from the production of the activating chemical but the total CO2 emissions can be as low as 1/5th - 1/10th of those of PC concrete mixtures with comparable properties. Less commonly researched, acidic activating chemicals can also be used with powder materials to produce pastes that can set and harden into durable solids. One such powder is fly ash from coal-burning power plants. This ash is mostly stockpiled and can be an environmental hazard such as exacerbating air pollution in cities. This study investigates the chemical activation of fly ashes from Turkey using solutions of acids such as orthophosphoric acid. Amorphous and crystalline reaction products are observed to form, yielding a strong binder that sets much more rapidly than PC-based mixtures or alkali-activated geopolymers. As the change in the rheological properties and mechanical properties of these pastes can be balanced by combining different ashes, as well as by adjusting solution properties, they can offer environmental, energetic, and economical advantages over conventional PC-based mixtures.