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Volcanic ash key to sustainable cement and concrete

A research team from the Universitat Politècnica de València is studying the use of volcanic ash for the manufacture of cement and concrete.

A research team from the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), part of the Institute of Concrete Science and Technology (ICITECH), is studying various samples of volcanic ash for the manufacture of cement and concrete.

The samples studied are from the Cumbre Vieja volcano, on the island of La Palma.

So far, the results obtained by the UPV team has shown volcanic ashes to be sufficiently reactive to be applied in the manufacture of cements with additions (type II) or pozzolanic cements (type IV).

Likewise, the ashes show a good homogeneity, considering the different origins of the samples collected.

“To date, we have carried out physical, chemical, mineralogical and mechanical tests, and the results show that these volcanic ashes meet the regulatory requirements for use as a mineral addition in cements,” ICITECH Institute of the Universitat Politècnica de València Research Group on Chemistry of Construction Materials (GIQUIMA) member Jordi Payá said.

Volcanic ashes that are hundreds or thousands of years old tend to be studied, but in this case the ashes were emitted recently, making this case unique.

Likewise, each volcanic emission produces ashes with different characteristics, so each case needs to be studied individually, according to the GIQUIMA-ICITECH team member.

“These volcanic ashes should be considered as natural waste, as it is a material that has occupied or is occupying spaces that correspond to infrastructures, industries, roads, farmland and housing, hence the importance of carrying out these studies to be able to reuse this material,” GIQUIMA-ICITECH team member María Victoria Borrachero said.

Therefore, to recover part of the social and economic activity, and to preserve the environment, it is necessary to recover the use of the several million tonnes of this ash that may be available,” GIQUIMA-ICITECH team member Lourdes Soriano said.

“And, in view of the first results of our study, cement-based materials are a great alternative for the management of this large volume of waste material,” he added.

“Therefore, this project is another example of the social impact of research, in this case, of our contribution from the UPV to the island’s recovery strategies.”

The main objective of the GIQUIMA-ICITECH team at the Universitat Politècnica de València is to give value to this ash in the field of civil engineering, by means of collection, management, conditioning and application through a cement or construction company.

“We are now analysing projects in which the results of the research can be applied,” GIQUIMA-ICITECH team member José Monzó added.

The study is in collaboration with the Presidency of the Government of the Canary Islands, the Military Emergency Unit (UME) and the Directorate General for the Coordination of Government Action of the Generalitat Valenciana.

The GIQUIMA-ICITECH team at the Universitat Politècnica de València will present the results of the project at the next National Materials Congress, which will be held in Ciudad Real on 28 June to 1 July.

Next, the team will focus on evaluating the behaviour of these cements in the long term and on optimising the dosage in the composition of the new cements with ashes from Cumbre Vieja.

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