Most industries are looking for ways to make their processes more environmentally friendly and sustainable, and the construction industry is no different. Geopolymer concrete is one material that meets the standard of reducing the carbon footprint of the concrete industry. A 2010 release by the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration called the “production of versatile, cost-effective geopolymer cements” a “game changing advancement, revolutionizing the construction of transportation infrastructure and the building industry.” Geopolymer concrete offers some distinct advantages when it comes to sustainability over traditional concrete made with Portland cement.
Geopolymer Concrete Defined
Geopolymer concrete is made by mixing aluminosilicates and a user-friendly alkaline reagent with water to create the cement or binder. This binder is then mixed with aggregates to form geopolymer concrete.
Traditional concrete is usually made from mixing Portland cement, which is made from limestone and clay minerals that have been heated and then ground into a powder, with aggregates and water.
The Advantages of Geopolymer Concrete
Geopolymer concrete has many advantages over traditional concrete. One main benefit of geopolymer concrete is that it is more durable than traditional concrete, being resistant to deterioration due to acids, salt, and the freeze cycle. It also has a better compressive strength, low permeability, low creep and shrinkage, and it’s fireproof. This all adds up to geopolymer concrete having a much longer life cycle expectancy than traditional concrete.
The biggest advantage of geopolymer concrete, however, is that it is much more ecofriendly and sustainable than traditional concrete. This is due to the fact that many of the aluminosilicates used to make geopolymer concrete come from industrial by-products, such as mine tailings, blast furnace slag, and coal fly ash. This keeps these by-products out of landfills. This also significantly reduces the material’s carbon footprint, which is also much lower in the production process itself than traditional concrete. One manufacturer maintains that geopolymer concrete has a 90 percent lower carbon footprint than traditional concrete.
Disadvantages of Geopolymer Concrete
While the use of geopolymer concrete is rising, the material does have some disadvantages that mean it is still not the go-to material used in most construction applications. For one, many of the materials needed to make it are dangerous chemicals that require special handling. This also makes it difficult to make on-site, so geopolymer concrete is generally used for pre-cast applications or as pre-mixed materials. Additionally, the material also has poor workability due to fast setting, so incorrect mixing can result in an unmanageable and unusable concrete mixture.
Lastly, due to the relatively newness of the product, there is not a lot of uniformity or standards of use for the material. This leaves it as an unknown factor that can go wrong and delay production, something that the construction industry shies away from.
Once geopolymer concrete manufacturing becomes more standardized, it’s likely to be a material that is utilized often in construction applications.
Tucker Paving has over 25 years of experience in the asphalt and concrete paving industry, and we look forward to all the new innovations within the construction industry. Contact us online, or call us at (863) 299-2262 for assistance with your next asphalt paving project.