Researchers at Deakin University have found a way to use waste glass as a sand substitute to make a type of concrete commonly used in the construction industry.

The research team at the Deakin School of Engineering ground up recycled glass, which was then used instead of sand to make polymer concrete often used in industrial flooring applications. The use of this glass resulted in a stronger product that was less costly to produce, said senior engineering lecturer Dr Riyadh Al-Ameri.

“This research provides the evidence the construction industry needs to see the potential of glass as a substitute for sand when making polymer concrete and, potentially, concrete,” Al-Ameri says.

According Al-Ameri, concrete is a major construction material and sand is one of its primary components. Mined sand, which is typically used in construction worldwide, requires washing and grading before being added to aggregate, cement and water to make concrete.

By substituting sand with ground recycled glass, the polymer concrete becomes stronger while enabling the sustainable use of a major recyclable in the domestic waste stream.

Additionally, ground glass will also reduce the cost of concrete production, leading to significant gains across the industry, potentially on a global scale, he added.

Polymer concrete uses polymers, typically resins, to replace lime-type cements as a binder.

This produces a high strength, water-resistant material suited to industrial flooring and infrastructure drainage, particularly in areas subject to heavy traffic such as service stations, forklift operating areas and airports.

Deakin Engineering student Dikshit Modgil worked with Melbourne-based Orca Civil Products as part of his Masters research into the suitability of recyclable glass in polymer concrete production.

Orca director Alan Travers explained that the specific type of waste glass used in the research was unsuitable for recycling back into glass.

The use of this glass in making polymer concrete, therefore, also addressed the issue of waste glass stockpiling, which was becoming a community problem.

Additionally, this ground-up glass replaces natural mined sand – a material that is headed towards shortage in the medium term.

Travers added that the research partnership had produced results that would be useful in taking the concept further to commercialisation.

Deakin’s research will next explore substitutes for the aggregate used in polymer concrete.

Photo credit: Donna Squires, Deakin University