Illinois State University receives EPA grant for sustainable concrete project

Illinois State University has been awarded a grant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for efforts to make construction materials more sustainable.

The EPA’s competitive People, Prosperity, and the Planet grant programme funds technology projects at universities across the US. The Illinois State team received $15,000 to conduct research on a project titled Recycled Glass as a Substitute for Portland Cement and Fly Ash in Controlled Low-Strength Material.

Pranshoo Solanki, an associate professor of construction management at Illinois State, says: “Portland cement is one of the main ingredients in concrete, which is the most widely used construction material in the world. Unfortunately, making cement also emits a lot of carbon dioxide. In fact, it constitutes about eight percent of the Earth’s carbon dioxide emissions.”

Solanki’s team is exploring partial substitution of cement and fly ash recycled glass in controlled low-strength material (GLSM), also called flowable fill. CLSM is a cement-based construction material commonly used for backfilling trenches or other excavations, as well as soil-stabilisation. It can be produced at a ready-mix concrete plant by mixing cement, fly ash, sand and water in designed proportions.

Solanki confirmed the preliminary results are promising and show that required flow and strength can be met by replacing cement/fly ash with recycled glass powder.

The grant applies to phase one of the project. Students from the team will travel to a TechConnect World Innovation Conference this summer to present their work and apply for a second loan which will enable the product to be tested in the real world.

“We also plan to work with our business partners to determine opportunities for using our research results to reduce costs for producing recycled glass powder,” Solanki continues. “As users and producers of concrete gain experience with recycled glass, the ultimate outcome would be the broader acceptance and use of recycled glass as a cement/fly ash substitute in concrete projects.”

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