Mechanical and physical characteristics of alkali- activated mortars incorporated with recycled polyvinyl chloride and rubber aggregates

Abstract: One of the ways to achieving net-zero concept in the construction industry is to use alternatives to Portland cement (OPC) and virgin aggregates for concrete manufacturing. Recycled rubber and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) aggregates in conjunction with low-carbon binders can be potentially utilised to substitute natural sand and reduce the negative environmental impacts of OPC. A replacement of natural sand (up to 70% by volume) in alkali-activated materials (AAMs) with recycled rubber and PVC particles derived from tyre waste and insulation coating of electric wires, respectively, was investigated in this study. The performance of developed AAMs was evaluated using a comprehensive testing program including mechanical, physical and microstructure assessments. AAM composites with PVC and rubber particles outperformed natural aggregate composites in terms of thermal resistivity, water absorption, volume permeability voids (VPV), and high-frequency sound insulation. Results showed that 70% PVC mixture achieved the lowest water absorption rate and thermal conductivity with a reduction of 73% and 20%, respectively, compared to the control mixture. A maximum reduction of 34% in VPV was observed in the 70% rubber mixture when compared to the control mixture. In terms of mechanical properties of waste stream aggregates, PVC outperformed rubber. The results showed that 30% replacement of PVC and rubber would produce composites with 7-day compressive strengths of 35 MPa and 25 MPa, respectively, which can be used to produce high-load bearing structures. The Energy-dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDX) was performed to detect chloride leaching from PVC aggregates, where results indicated that no leaching had occurred after more than 90 days of casting. Regarding the carbon emission, the carbon footprint of AAM composites is decreased by using the polymeric fractions in place of sand. The developed composites of this study can be used safely in non-load bearing structural elements with promising physical and mechanical performance.

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