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IIT-M, MIT to develop a framework for the usage of agricultural and industrial by-products

Researchers at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) and the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are involved in developing a novel framework for high volume usage of by-products in structural materials.

The main outcome expected from this research is achieving a paradigm shift in material selection criteria for exploiting the usefulness of agricultural and industrial by-products. The researchers say since industrial by-products are generated in huge quantities across the world and are now going into waste, developing a framework for their usage will be a major step forward towards a sustainable future.

They feel the next generation of sustainable and durable building materials could be designed by successfully utilising vast amounts of otherwise-undesired materials and these novel building materials will be attractive due to lower cost and environmental impact than existing materials.

“A unique aspect of this Research Project is while there has been limited utilisation of waste and by-products in structural materials such as concrete, this project aims at developing a novel framework for high-volume utilisation of industrial by-products in alternative cementitious binders,” Dr Piyush Chaunsali, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, said.

He said the researchers are addressing the problem of underutilisation of by-products such as biomass ash, coal ash, red mud, and copper slag, among others, due to their complex physicochemical characteristics.

“This project aims to address the growing challenge regarding the beneficial utilisation of voluminous industrial by-products generated in India. Infrastructure construction offers potential sinks for these source materials due to the enormous volume usages, in applications such as roads, buildings and bridges, among others,” the IIT-M said in a statement.

Dr Elsa A Olivetti, Atlantic Richfield Associate Professor of Energy Studies, MIT, said the SPARC project is about developing new, more sustainable cement and cement binders as cement concretes are some of the most widely used materials on the planet.”

“In particular, we are trying to use industrial waste materials to make new cement binders so that we could have more sustainable materials. We want to think about various regions of India and what waste materials are available and how might they be used to make new cement that would have lower environmental footprint than the current building materials that are being used,” Prof, Elsa Olivetti said.

Other Important Objectives of this project include performance mapping and characterization of industrial by-products in India for assessing their availability and reactivity, explore low-energy pathways for high volume utilisation of industrial by-products in cementitious binders and evaluating the environmental sustainability of novel cementitious binders using life-cycle assessment.

SPARC (or) Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration aims at improving the research ecosystem of India’s Higher Educational Institutions by facilitating academic and research collaborations between Indian Institutions and the best institutions in the world from 28 selected nations to jointly solve problems of national and/or international relevance.