Inorganic Polymers: Novel Ordinary Portland Cement-Free Binders for Transportation Infrastructure
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Inorganic Polymers: Novel Ordinary Portland Cement-Free Binders for Transportation Infrastructure

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    Researchers are studying how building materials can be made in a way that is less energy intensive and can result in cost savings. One such building material is concrete, which is used to make sidewalks and roads, among other structures. Concrete consists of cement, water, sand, and stones that are mixed together. When cement is mixed with water, it acts like a binder—or glue—to hold together all the sand and stones that make up concrete. However, producing ordinary portland cement, the type of cement most often used, can be energy intensive because cement manufacturing requires high heat. This is because the limestone used to make cement releases carbon dioxide when heated, while the kilns where cement production occurs burn fossil fuels for heat. To address this concern, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed “cement-free” inorganic polymer binders (IPBs) for producing concrete. They studied how IPBs made from fly ash, an industrial byproduct that comes from coal-fired power plants, can completely replace the portland cement binders currently used to make concrete. With research partners at the University of California at Santa Barbara, University of Texas at Austin, and Boral Materials, along with support from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program, the researchers defined fly ash’s characteristics at the atomic level so that they could understand how those characteristics influenced binder behavior during concrete production.
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