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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 12-Dec-2014
AbstractGeopolymerization is a chemical reaction process, reacting SiO₂ and Al₂O₃ with alkaline solutions, which can transform aluminosilicate solids or particles to polymer materials. Geopolymers have many engineering applications such as cementation binders for construction and solidification or encapsulation of hazardous heavy metals. Mine tailings mainly consist of SiO₂ and Al₂O₃. Theoretically, mine tailings can be used as source materials for geopolymerization. However, for most researchers, they use fly ash, metakaolin or furnace slag as source minerals, because these minerals are much more reactive with alkaline solutions. Mine tailings are naturally-forming minerals and are considered to be inert in geopolymerization. How are mine tailings to be activated through different reaction conditions? We conducted several tentative or preliminary experiments to study the geopolymerization process step by step. We tried different methods to react mine tailings with alkaline solutions. Mine tailings were submerged into alkaline solutions in a plastic bucket for 6 days in room temperature (20-25 °C). We wanted mine tailings to be activated by soaking. The results were not satisfying. Then we tried to react mine tailings with alkaline solutions at 60 °C and 90 °C. After analyzing, we found that the results were not satisfying either. So, we conducted simplified geopolymerization experiments in order to better understand the chemical reaction mechanism. Pure SiO2 and Al2O3, which were two major reactants, were employed to simplify and simulate the geopolymerization process. We drew some useful conclusions such as that geopolymerization took place at elevated temperatures; Al₂O₃ almost did not react with alkaline solutions at low temperatures, etc. We conducted experiments at elevated temperatures (150 °C, 180 °C, 210 °C). Different levels of pressure (5 MPa, 10 MPa, 20 MPa) were applied to make compact specimens. After many attempts, the results were successful. The highest mechanical strength was about 20 MPa. Most importantly, we obtained polymers produced from geopolymerzation, which could be seen by naked eyes. The experiment techniques such as scanning electron microstructure (SEM) imaging and X-ray diffraction (XRD), inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), and unconfined compression tests (UCS) were applied to study the geopolymerization reaction mechanism and the feasibility of using mine tailing-based geopolymers as construction materials.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Mining Geological & Geophysical Engineering