Last week a team of Brazilian researchers from the University of São Carlos revealed some of their initial and positive findings on the use of sugarcane bagasse for the production of concrete. The basis of the potential construction material would be to substitute sand with ash from burning bagasse in two stages.
Firstly, to essentially sift through the matter so as to remove sugarcane that was not burned and, secondly, undertake a process of grinding so that the grains are a comparable size to sand used in the manufacture of concrete.
According to researchers, a mixture of sand and between 30 and 50 percent of bagasse makes concrete 17 percent stronger than compared to what is currently standard in Brazil – this is largely due to the high crystalline and silica content. According to head researcher, Almir Sales: “the advantage is also due to the compressed properties of the bagasse ash which, due to the fact that is more uniform, fills better than natural sand.”
The potential of the material is argued to be able to make a huge impact on the supply of cement in Brazil. Indeed, despite the Votorantim group (the largest cement producer in Brazil) announcing the construction of 8 new plants, the company were still seen importing 300,000 tons of waste from Vietnam as reserves earlier this year.
The added advantage of using this material is the fact that Brazil already has a well established and growing sugarcane ethanol industry. As mentioned by Clovis Lemes in our previous interview, the stem of the sugarcane fibers were formally disposed as waste until detailed research proved that it can be used in the generation of electricity (and now other uses) via burning.
The team’s research points out that this places a significant advantage on the environment – particularly as the removal of sand from riverbeds continues to be criticized from a sustainability perspective.
The researchers are currently undergoing the testing of the durability of concrete involving placing the material in a chamber that accelerates its weathering for periods of up to 12 months of which the “preliminary results are encouraging,” according to Sales. Following this process will be a series of various environmental impact testing procedures which are expected to be completed by May 2011.
The group plan to initially launch the projects on a smaller scale – such as in the manufacture of curbs and sluice gates – which will be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of the material upon which further investment from private companies, suppliers and constructors will be sought.
Sales estimates are indicating that the bagasse concrete would be able to be sold at between 10 and 12 percent cheaper than standard products, due to the low cost of ash from sugarcane and the declining availability of concrete in its current form.
Almir Sales and his team are also researching into other construction materials – such as the discovery of a compound that can replace gravel in concrete using wood sawdust and sludge from water treatment plants which, it is argued, makes the concrete 30 percent lighter with lower thermal conductivity.
Ruban Selvanayagam is a Brazil real estate and land specialist. For free e-books, state guides, up-to-date statistics, strategies, interviews, articles, weekly broadcasts and more head to the Brazil Real Estate and Land Investment Guide via the following link: http://www.brazilinvestmentguide.com/brazil-property-real-estate-land/
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