In the revolutionary way that aerogel is starting to redefine insulation, geopolymer may be poised to redefine cement, concrete and a lot of other advanced composite materials. And, like aerogel, geopolymer hasn’t received the public attention it should.
In this video, geopolymer expert Trudy Kriven, a professor of material science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, explains how geopolymers are essentially inorganic polymers made from readily available aluminum- and silica-containing materials.
As Kriven explains, a motive for finding a replacement like geopolymer for traditional Portland cement is environmental: Portland cement production requires a tremendous amount of energy to heat and convert the raw materials (at 1450°C), and can generate nearly one ton of CO2 for every ton of processed cement.
Geopolymer, on the other hand, doesn’t have to be fired. In addition, Kriven notes, geopolymer is twice as strong as cement in compression, three-times as strong in flexure and can set up in one day.
The reality is that given the need to reduce global CO2 emissions and given the plans for large scale construction and transportation growth in countries such as China, alternatives to Portland cement are extremely important.
Besides using geopolymer to make concrete, this novel material can be used for fire and corrosion resistant coatings, water and air filtration, CO2 sequestration materials, projectile armor, substrates for solar and fuel cells, and even a paint substitute.
Adding for clarification . . . Trudy’s comments at around the 3 minute mark can be misconstrued when she says the geopolymer “looks like a ceramic, feels like a ceramic, but wasn’t fired at high temperature.” She is referring to “traditional” ceramics that are fired in a kiln or sintered. However, geopolymer falls within the broad grouping of “ceramic materials.”