Waste and Biomass Valorization vol:5 pages:411-428
Large volumes of Fe-silicate glasses - slags - are produced as residues of metal production and waste treatment processes. It would be interesting if these materials could become an alternative group of precursors for the synthesis of inorganic polymer (IP) cements. This paper investigates the polymerisation of Fe-silicate glasses of composition (in wt%) SiO2: 40; FeO: 30; CaO: 15; Al2O3: 8 and an activating solution of composition (in wt%) Na2O: 15; SiO2: 13; H2O: 72. The mass ratio of the activating solution to the glass (L/S) was varied from 0.3 to 1.0 and the effect on the IP chemistry, microstructure and properties was investigated. Despite the high Fe and low Al contents of the glass, an IP cement could be synthesised, resistant to water dissolution and delivering mortars of compressive strength >52 MPa after 28 days curing at room temperature when using a L/S ratio of 0.45. Lowering the ratio from 1.00 to 0.45 results in a significant improvement in compressive strength, a lower porosity and when immersed in water, Na dissolution is decreased and water pH is lower. Microstructural investigation indicates that when the amount of activating solution is decreased, the degree of glass dissolution is lower resulting in less IP formation and a more homogeneous IP chemistry. Compared to higher L/S ratios, the IP mortar has a more densely packed microstructure of partially dissolved glass and sand aggregates bound by the IP matrix. At lower L/S ratios, the formation of micro scale shrinkage cracks in the IP matrix is strongly reduced, while at higher L/S ratios, shrinkage cracking is more pronounced and individual micro-cracks connect to form more pronounced large scale cracks. At a L/S ratio of 0.45, the IP cement is composed of 90 wt% Fe-silicate glass and only 10 wt% Na-silicate (% of powder mix) and it is indicated that this percentage can still be reduced. As 90 wt% of this IP cement is composed of a waste material and as curing is performed at ambient temperatures, its production is expected to have important ecological and economic benefits.