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IIT-Madras, MIT join hands to come up with productive ways to utilise Agri, industrial waste

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are working together to develop productive usage of agricultural and industrial by-products such as biomass ash that remain underutilised due to their complex physio-chemical characteristics. The project aims to address this challenge and contribute to a sustainable future.

High-volume usage
The researchers are developing a framework for high-volume usage of by-products in structural materials. Industrial by-products are generated in huge quantities across the world and are now going into waste. This will be a major step forward towards a sustainable future.

They are combining the principles of materials chemistry, structural engineering and life-cycle analysis to develop load bearing, durable, sustainable, and economically viable cementitious binders based on industrial by-products in India, says a press release from IIT Madras.

The project is led by Piyush Chaunsali and Ravindra Gettu, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT-Madras, with Elsa A Olivetti, Atlantic Richfield Associate Professor of Energy Studies, MIT. It was taken up under the SPARC Initiative of the Union Ministry of Education.

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Chaunsali said that by-products such as biomass ash, coal ash, red mud and copper slag are generated in large volumes and remain mostly underutilised due to their complex physio-chemical characteristics. The project aims to address growing challenges 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 usage in applications such as roads, buildings, and bridges, among others.

Olivetti said: “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 cements that would have lower environmental footprint than the current building materials that are being used.”

Some of the objectives of the project include mapping and characterisation of industrial by-products in India for assessing their availability and reactivity; exploring low-energy pathways for high volume utilisation of industrial by-products in cementitious binders; and evaluating environmental sustainability of novel cementitious binders using life-cycle assessment, the release said.