An Illinois State University student team was awarded a grant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its project using recycled waste materials as an environmentally friendly alternative in construction material.
EPA’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) grant program funds innovative technology projects for universities across the country. The ISU team will receive $15,000 to complete the first phase of the project called “Recycled Glass as a Substitute for Portland Cement and Fly Ash in Controlled Low-Strength Material.” The project, led by ISU professor Pranshoo Solanki, aims to make construction material more sustainable.
“Cement industry produces 8% of the carbon dioxide that we have on Earth,” Solanki said. “If you can reduce the amount of cement in construction, you can reduce the carbon dioxide. Why not replace some of the cement with recycled glass? It can reduce carbon dioxide and recycle waste material in construction.”
Controlled low strength material (CLSM), also known as flowable fill, is a combination of Portland cement, fly ash, sand and water that has low strength and is used to fill trenches and road bases and for soil stabilization. Solanki said that because CLSM doesn’t require high strength, it is easier to examine the material and explore replacing fly ash and cement with recycled glass.
He also revealed why the team chose recycled glass to replace cement and fly ash.
“According to EPA, 12 million tons of glass was produced, but only around 27% of glass was recycled,” Solanki said. “Here, just in our town, Midwest Fiber Recycling produced 360 tons of glass every month. We think if we can find a solution, then maybe we can use more (glass) in construction material. There’s a lot of glass out there that can be used.”
ISU graduate student and Research Assistant Mobi Singh thinks the project is a breakthrough in the construction industry.
“This project has made me think deeper about innovation,” Singh said. “We came up with this world-changing idea of using waste material in construction material. We are now being recognized for bringing up this idea and showcasing it. This is really inspiring for me. You’ve got to have a dream and live that dream out.”
The project is a one-year study that will conclude at the end of November. The team will apply for a phase two grant that would allow them to conduct a two to three-year study that tests their idea in a real world project.
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