Researchers at Deakin University’s School of Engineering have found a new use for waste or recycled glass, grinding it up as a substitute for sand to make polymer concrete, a material often used in industrial flooring. Senior lecturer in engineering Dr Riyadh Al-Ameri says the addition of glass results in a stronger product that is less costly to produce.
“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,” he says. “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.”
Polymer concrete is a type of concrete that uses polymers, typically resins, to replace lime-type cements as a binder. This produces a high-strength, water-resistant material suited to industrial flooring and infrastructure drainage, particularly in areas subject to heavy traffic, such as service stations, warehouses and airports.
Engineering student Dikshit Modgil worked with Melbourne-based Orca Civil Products as part of his master’s research into the suitability of recyclable glass in polymer concrete production.
Orca Civil Products Director Alan Travers says the research partnership has produced results that will be useful in taking the concept further to commercialisation.
“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,” he says. “The concept has even more appeal to us because of predicted shortages of natural, mined sands in the medium term.”
Dr Al-Ameri says the next stage of Deakin’s research will look at substitutes for the aggregate in polymer concrete, optimising the substitution rate, assessing durability and commercialising the new product.