Geopolymers &mdash they look like a ceramic, feel like a ceramic, but they're not a ceramic. A geopolymer is actually an inorganic compound that is positioning itself as eco-friendly replacement for Portland cement, the highly energy intensive and carbon dioxide producing binder used to made concrete. Not only are geopolymers stronger and less damaging to the earth, but they can also be made with byproducts of other industries such as slag and fly ash.
Concrete is one of the most common and strongest building materials on earth. Unfortunately, one of the components of concrete, Portland cement, is incredibly energy intensive to make and can emit up to 1 ton of carbon dioxide for every 1 ton of of Portland cement product. Geopolymers on the other hand only emit .2 tons during its lifetime.
Geopolymers are essentially inorganic polymers made from aluminum and silica based materials. Geopolymer cements can also be made from natural sources such as lava, or industry byproducts such as fly ash from coal or slag.
One of the reasons Portland cement generates so much CO2 is because its production requires a very high temperatures during the firing process. Geopolymer, on the other hand, doesn't have to be fired and can be set in 1-3 days, while Portland cement can take up to 28 days to set.
In addition to being a more earth friendly material than Portland cement, geopolymers are much stronger &mdash twice as strong as cement in compression, three-times as strong in flexure. It also has greater chemical and thermal resistance and better mechanical properties at both ambient and extreme conditions.
A mug made of geopolymers, dropped from a five-story building, will bounce rather than shatter &mdash amazing!
Scientists are still researching the many possible uses of geoplymers, some potentials include: plastic replacements, fire protection, thermal insulation and shock absorption, corrosion resistance, paints and coatings, water filtration and CO2 sequestration.
(Image via ScienceDaily)