Scientists create concrete from waste to pave our sustainable future

Colliecrete team showing new products created from their invention

New ‘Colliecrete’ product to create jobs in regional transitions away from coal fired power plants as they are retired.

Researchers at Murdoch’s Harry Butler Institute are transforming fly ash from burning coal into concrete, today launching the new product ‘Colliecrete’.

“Our graduates have developed an entirely new approach to concrete by making geopolymer cement in a unique chemical reaction and then adding recycled aggregates,” said Dr Martin Anda, environmental engineer at the Centre for Water, Energy and Waste.

“We need to be bolder and more innovative and get on with the job of transforming our cities into sustainable cities this innovation is a terrific example of that happening today.” 

Two hours south of Perth’s industrial hub, in the South West town of Collie, coal is mined and burned to produce 50 per cent of Perth’s electricity.

The research team is scooping up the soft fly ash from the power stations and mixing it with construction waste, which would otherwise be sent to landfill, to create a greener alternative to concrete, called Colliecrete. 

The intent is to reduce the need for unsustainable and destructive practices.

“Conventional cement production is a dirty process and one of the world’s biggest polluters of carbon - responsible for eight per cent of industrial global emissions,” explained Dr Anda

“Concrete manufacturing also harms seagrass meadows, which are mined for shells, and blasts holes into Perth’s hills to extract rocks needed for production.” 

Under Dr Anda’s instruction, environmental engineering graduates Hendrik Gildenhuys and Ramon Skane hope to use Collie’s tailing dams, which contain a century’s worth of old fly ash, as the basis for a green manufacturing industry that will inject fresh jobs into the local economy.

Colliecrete is a West Australian State Government funded research project financed by Royalties for Regions and Collie Futures Funding.

Collie is the State’s historical centre of electricity generation, where for decades, underground and open cut coal mines have provided the fuel to be burnt in WA’s power stations to provide electricity to the South West Interconnected System – the main power grid for the State.

This research supports UN Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 15.

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Posted on:

22 Jul 2021

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