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Construction and Building Materials 50 (2014) 432–436

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Construction and Building Materials

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/conbuildmat

Using wood fiber waste, rice husk ash, and limestone powder waste
as cement replacement materials for lightweight concrete blocks
Javad Torkaman a, Alireza Ashori b,⇑, Ali Sadr Momtazi c
Department of Forestry, Faculty of Natural Resources, University of Guilan, Rasht, Iran
Department of Chemical Technologies, Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology (IROST), Tehran, Iran
Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Guilan, Rasht, Iran

h i g h l i g h t s

 Effects of partial replacement of Portland cement by WFW, RHA, and LPW were studied.
 The interactions of variable parameters were highly significant on properties.
 The increase of RHA content induced the reduction of bulk density of the blocks.

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: This work presents a parametric experimental study, which investigates the effects of partial replacement
Received 5 July 2013 of Portland cement by wood fiber waste (WFW), rice husk ash (RHA), and limestone powder waste (LPW)
Received in revised form 17 September 2013 for producing a lightweight concrete block as a building material. Some of the mechanical and physical
Accepted 24 September 2013
properties of block materials having various levels of WFW, RHA, and LPW are studied. The compressive
Available online 19 October 2013
strength of the concrete blocks due to the filler effect decreased with increasing cement replacement.
However, the results show the effect of 25 wt% replacement of RHA and LPW with Portland cement do
not exhibit a sudden brittle fracture even beyond the failure loads, indicates high energy absorption
Concrete block
Wood fiber waste
capacity, reduce the unit weight dramatically. As expected, the increase of the RHA content induced
Rice husk ash the reduction of bulk density of the concrete blocks. Statistical analysis showed that the interactions of
Limestone powder above-mentioned variable parameters were significant on both mechanical and physical properties at
Compressive strength 5% confidence level. The optimum replacement level of WFW, LPW, and RHA was 25% by weight; this
replacement percentage resulted in good physico-mechanical properties. Recycling of WSW, RHA, and
LPW as promising raw material supplements appears to be viable solution not only to the environmental
problem but also to the problem of the economic design of buildings.
Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction bers were sought and cellulosic fibers were determined to be a via-
ble alternative [2]. However, the application of wood fiber is not
In the coming years, the construction industry has the challenge without its own drawback concerns. The two main disadvantages
of incorporating sustainability in their production processes, either of using wood fibers in cement are the high moisture absorption
by searching for new raw materials and products more environ- of the fibers and the low compatibility between fibers and cement
mentally friendly and/or contributing for the reduction of CO2 into [3]. Wood fibers contain a wide range of carbohydrates such as
the atmosphere. The possibility of incorporating waste from other hemicellulose and extractives which are known to inhibit normal
industrial activities in their production processes can help with this setting and strength development properties of the cement matrix
goal [1]. Currently, cellulosic fiber reinforced cementitious materi- [4]. The recycling of various types of wood pulp fibers for the pro-
als are the most widely used for exterior products such as siding duction of fiber cement has shown a significant effect on the
and roofing materials, for residential construction. Previously, this mechanical properties and absorption. Yadollahi et al. [5] found
class of construction composites contained asbestos fibers. Asbes- that relatively denser, stronger, and stiffer composites were ob-
tos fibers were used due to their high strength-to-weight ratio. tained from the boards made with 40% pulp and paper sludge.
However, due to the carcinogenic nature of asbestos, alternative fi- To use alternative binders by the inclusion of pozzolanic addi-
tions are necessary to reduce the alkalinity of the matrix and the
⇑ Corresponding author. Tel.: +98 21 56275192; fax: +98 21 56275191. content of calcium hydroxide (portlandite), avoiding the long-term
E-mail address: ashori@irost.org (A. Ashori). degradation in non-conventional fiber cement material employing

0950-0618/$ - see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
J. Torkaman et al. / Construction and Building Materials 50 (2014) 432–436 433

cellulosic fibers as reinforcement. The ash production is generated Table 1

by the burning process of rice husk as sources of energy and cogen- Chemical and physical analysis of LPW and OPC.

eration for power. If adequately processed, the ash becomes a poz- Properties (Percentage by weight)
zolan predominantly amorphous, which is soluble in an alkaline LPW OPC
medium and reacts in an aqueous solution with Ca2+ and OH ions
SiO2 (%) 0.32 25.00
[6]. The final result of the reaction is the calcium silicate hydrate, the CaO (%) 61.22 67.02
main product of hydration of the ordinary Portland cement. The rice MgO (%) 0.13 1.21
husk ash (RHA) is a pozzolanic material and can be used as a supple- Al2O3 (%) 0.29 2.85
mentary cementitious material to replace Portland cement by up to Fe2O3 (%) 0.26 0.51
SO3 (%) 0 3.74
30% [7]. The benefits of RHA utilization in cement are twofold. First
Cl (%) 0 0.01
is the economic gain obtained by replacing a substantial part of the Density (g/cm3) 2.48 3.25
Portland cement by cheaper natural pozzolan. A second advantage Surface area (m2/kg) 138 260
is the durability improvement of the end product [8].
Currently, the blocks of limestone are extracted via chain saw,
diamond wire and diamond saws from quarries and then the
blocks are cut into smaller suitable sizes to be used as building determine the effect of various variable parameters. The replacement ratios be-
material. The processing limestone that includes crashed limestone tween WFW, RHA, and LPW were taken by the percentage weight in the mix design.
production is results in approximately 20% limestone powder All block specimens were made with 1.00:0.55 weight ratio for cement-to-water.
waste (LPW) [9]. Disposal of LPW causes dust, environmental prob- The CaCl2 was used at constant dosage of 5 wt% as accelerator for hydration process.
For comparison purposes, control samples with no ash added were used.
lem and pollution because of its fine nature. It contaminates the air In the mixing process, raw materials using the mixture proportions given in Ta-
with the storms in the summer and spring seasons and therefore ble 2 were placed in a concrete mixer and mixed for 3 min, and then the dilute
causes serious health hazards including specifically asthma. The aqueous solution of CaCl2 and water were added. In order to obtain more homoge-
industry suffers to store LPW due to the costs of storage [10]. On neous mixes, the paste was mixed for another 2 min. Consequently, the blended
mortars were immediately fed into the steel moulds (150  150  150 mm3). The
the other side, the effect of limestone powder on ordinary Portland
cast moulds were vibrated for 1 min to achieve adequate compaction. Afterward,
cement (OPC) is twofold. Fine limestone powder exerts a physical the cast specimens were covered with plastic to prevent water loss. The resulting
filler effect on the cement hydration. Replacing part of the OPC assemblage was pressed to reduce its height while the mat for the next board
with limestone will increase the effective water to OPC ratio, and was mixed. After 24 h, the blocks were declamped, and conditioned for 28 days at
provide additional surface for precipitation of hydration products, 25 ± 1 °C and 65 ± 5% RH to allow the cement to cure and gain strength (Fig. 2).

thereby promoting the early age hydration of the OPC. Besides

the filler effect, there is also a chemical effect: the calcium carbon- 2.3. Tests methods
ate of the limestone powder can interact with the aluminate hy-
The series of tests were carried out according to ASTM C67 [12] to determine
drates formed by OPC hydration [3].
the compressive strength, water absorption, and bulk density of the block samples.
The present study evaluated the use of cementitious matrix
modified by partial replacement of the ordinary Portland cement
by wood fiber waste (WFW), rice husk ash (RHA), and limestone 2.3.1. Compressive strength
The composite specimens were prepared in accordance with ASTM C109 [13].
powder waste (LPW) for the production of lightweight concrete Each compressive strength value reported is the average of three samples. The
blocks as a building material. The effects of above-mentioned waste dry compression strength was determined using an Instron Universal Testing Ma-
materials on the compressive strength, water absorption, bulk den- chine (Model 4486), with a loading speed of 10 mm/min.
sity before and after soaking were investigated. These wastes uti-
lized in this research are widely available in large amounts from 2.3.2. Water absorption
the forest and limestone industries. Therefore, the acceptable solu- Water absorption was carried out using ASTM C642 [14]. The cube specimens
tion of this problem with a commercial value is crucial. for water absorption were completely submerged horizontally under distilled water
maintained at 25 °C for 24 h. After soaking, the samples were drained on paper tow-
els for 10 min to remove excess water. The water absorption was calculated from
2. Materials and methods the increase in weight of the specimen during submersion. At least four specimens
of every treatment were tested to obtain a reliable average and standard deviations.
2.1. Materials

The fibrous raw material used in this study was fibers derived from fiberboard. 2.3.3. Bulk density
The chemical and morphological characteristics of the WFW were as follows: cellu- Specimens were tested following ASTM C29 [15] for bulk density. The densities
lose 50.3 ± 1.8%, lignin 24.3 ± 1.6%, hemicellulose 19.1 ± 1.9%, ash 3.3 ± 0.7%, fiber of the composites were determined by measuring the mass and volume of each
length 0.8 ± 0.14 mm, and fiber width 23.5 ± 2.2 lm. sample. The air-dried samples were oven-dried up to 103 ± 2 °C until they reached
The ground rice husk was burned in suspension at a temperature of 700 °C in constant weights. Then, the samples were cooled in a desiccator containing calcium
complete combustion. The well-mixed white RHA was subsequently sieved to re- chloride and weighed in an analytic balance with ±0.01 g sensitivity. The mass of
move the large particles and any incompletely combusted materials, and only par- each sample was obtained by calculating the arithmetic mean of the mass of all
ticles passing through 150 lm-sieve were used. of the test samples taken from the same panel. Afterward, the dimensions of the
LPW used in the block samples was produced during quarrying operations in specimens were measured using a digital caliper with ±0.001 mm sensitivity and
the region. The binding agent employed was commercial grade of ASTM type II or- the volumes were determined by the stereo metric method. The density (D) was
dinary Portland cement (OPC), a product of Khazar Cement Co., Iran. The results of then calculated using the following equation:
chemical and physical analysis of LPW and cement are given in Table 1. Graded riv-
er sand (GRS) with fineness modulus of 2.5 and adsorption of 0.7% conforming to M0
D¼ ð1Þ
ASTM C33 [11] was used as fine aggregate. V0
Calcium chloride (CaCl2) was used as cement setting accelerator. It was an ana-
lytical grade from Merck Co., Germany. The properties of the tap water used in this where M0 is the oven dry weight (g) and V0 is the dry volume (cm3) of the sample.
study were of pH 6.4, 5.3 mg/L sulfate content and have a hardness of 3.5.

2.3.4. Data analysis

2.2. Mixing and fabrication of blocks Measured data on mechanical and physical properties of the composites were
analyzed with analysis of variance (ANOVA) procedure using SAS software (Version
Fig. 1 shows the experimental work steps and mixture proportions of the raw 9.1; Statistical Analysis System Institute Inc., Cary, NC, USA). Duncan’s Multiple
materials are summarized in Table 2. Six different types of mixtures were prepared Range tests were used to compare the difference among the mean values for the
in the laboratory trials. The water proportion in the mixes was taken as constant to groups’ properties at the level of 0.05.
434 J. Torkaman et al. / Construction and Building Materials 50 (2014) 432–436

- Portland cement
- Graded river sand
Curing Water absorption
- Wood fibers Casting
Variable parameters - Rice husk ash
- Limestone powder Bulk density after
and before soaking

Fig. 1. Flow chart of concrete block fabrication and characterization.

Table 2 between the mean values of the studied properties among each
Mixture proportions of blended mortars. of the groups compared were significant (p < 0.05).
Treatment GRS OPC WFW RHA LPW The average compressive strength values were inversely pro-
code (wt%) (wt%) (wt%) (wt%) (wt%) portional with the percentage of WFW replacement (Fig. 3a). The
Control 50 50 0 0 0 strength dramatically decreases with an increase in the replace-
A 50 25 0 25 0 ment level of WFW. About 75% reduction in the strength of control
B 50 25 0 0 25 mix is obtained from the 25 wt% WFW replacement (treatment
C 25 50 25 0 0
code C), which attains the average result of 1.6 MPa. The low
D 25 25 25 0 25
E 25 25 25 25 0 specific gravity of the WFW (about 0.58) causes fibers to float on
top of the slurry and it creates a lack of homogenous mixture in
the composite so that the top surface of the composite fills with
accumulated fibers.
As seen in Fig. 3a, the rate of strength loss of composites de-
creases when increasing the replacement level of WFW and LPW
(treatment code D). The low values of compressive strength for
WFW and LPW can be explained as follows. The development of
strength properties in fiber–cement composite mostly depends
on the formation of fiber–matrix, matrix–matrix and fiber–fiber
bonds, i.e. their ability to bond to matrix and/or to each other.
The bonding can be affected by dimensions, surface conditions
and number of fibers present in a given volume of material [16].
The data in Table 3 and Fig. 3a show that compression strength
of the samples were remarkably enhanced when the RHA content
was increased from 0% to 25% (treatment code E). The specimens
made with 25% RHA showed the highest value among the other
treatments. This may be due to the fact that the compatibility of
the fibers with cement was improved considerably.

3.2. Water absorption

Fig. 2. General view of produced concrete blocks.
To provide an indication on the durability performance of sam-
ples the water absorption was measured. This parameter is critical
3. Results and discussion in determining mechanical and transport properties of the most
building products [17]. Results indicate that as the amount of
3.1. Compressive strength WFW increases, the water absorption of the samples increases con-
siderably (Fig. 3b). One is that the lower bonding strength between
Relatively little research is available from the current literature, the fiber and cement led to a tendency for more spring back after
compared to the tremendous amount of bending and tensile test
results. If the composites are to be used for any application requir- Table 3
ing compressive load carrying capacity, the effect of compressive Mechanical and physical properties of concrete blocks.
strength changes due to fiber addition must be taken into account. Treatment Compressive Water Density before Density after
Though it is difficult to compare various research studies due to code strength uptake soaking (g/cm3) soaking (g/
widely varying experimental procedures, relative changes within (%) cm3)
studies can be directly compared. Control 62.9 ± 0.2 11.8 ± 5.4 2.0 ± 0.2 2.2 ± 0.9
In general, statistical analysis showed that the compressive A 66.9 ± 0.4 5.5 ± 0.4 1.8 ± 0.2 1.9 ± 0.6
property was significantly influenced by the addition of WFW, B 65.6 ± 0.7 3.2 ± 0.9 1.9 ± 0.1 1.9 ± 0.2
C 16.1 ± 0.3 6.6 ± 2.0 1.4 ± 0.3 1.5 ± 0.1
RHA, and LPW contents (Tables 3 and 4). In other words, the inter- D 14.3 ± 0.4 6.3 ± 1.6 1.4 ± 0.2 1.4 ± 0.6
actions of above-mentioned variable parameters were significant E 28.7 ± 0.6 4.7 ± 0.3 1.6 ± 0.2 1.7 ± 0.2
at 5% confidence level. According to the DMRT, the differences
J. Torkaman et al. / Construction and Building Materials 50 (2014) 432–436 435

Table 4
Analysis of variance on some mechanical and physical properties.

Properties Sum of squares Degree of freedom Mean of squares F value P value

Compressive strength Amongst groups 9664.436 5 1932.887 8477.574 0.000
Within groups 2.733 12 0.228
Total 9667.169 17
Water uptake Amongst groups 129.406 5 25.881 4.227 0.019
Within groups 73.48 12 6.123
Total 202.886 17
Density before soaking Amongst groups 0.984 5 0.197 469.05 0.000
Within groups 0.005 12 0.00042
Total 0.99 17
Density after soaking Amongst groups 1.298 5 0.26 130 0.000
Within groups 0.019 12 0.002
Total 1.317 17
Compressive strength (MPa)

(a) 7.5





Control A B C D E
Treatment code

Water uptake (%)


Control A B C D E
Treatment code

Fig. 3. Effects of variable parameters on the (a) compressive strength and (b) water absorption.

24-h of water immersion. Another possible reason is that like other concrete composite production for wall panel applications. Similar
woody materials, the WFW has high hydrophilic nature resulting results were reported by Turgut [9]. The presence of the hollow lu-
in a high water absorption rate. The third possible reason could men decreases the bulk density of the fiber and acts as an acoustic
be attributed to low bulk density of WFW, which cause more void and thermal insulator. These properties make lignocellulosic fibers
space in the composite. The statistical analysis for the effect of each preferable for lightweight concrete composites used as noise and
variable parameter (various fibers and WRHA contents) on studied thermal insulators in buildings [18].
properties was significant at 1% confidence level. Maximum water The test results confirm that the bulk density values are inver-
absorption of the samples was 11.8% for control. It was observed sely proportional with the percentage WFW and LPW replacement
that there is a moderate decrease in water absorption after addi- with Portland cement content (Fig. 4). About 30% reduction in the
tion of RHA and LPW. It is confirming that free water available in bulk density of control mix is obtained from the 25% WFW and
the paste matrix remains the primary source of observed open LPW replacement. By assuming the average unit weight of ordinary
pores. This is also associated with the decrease of its bulk density. concrete brick as 2.3 g/cm3 the mixture having 25% of WFW con-
tent provides a 40% lighter concrete block. This reduction in unit
3.3. Bulk density weight is a useful result, which exhibits the potential of WSW
and LPW combination to be used in the lightweight building mate-
The results of bulk density before and after soaking are shown rial applications.
in Fig. 4. From the figure, both physical properties were observed The density increased slightly after 24 h soaking regardless
to decrease with WFW and LPW loadings. In relation to the density treatment types (Fig. 4). As is can clearly seen, control composite
measurements, by replacing 25% WFW and 25% LPW gave compos- showed the highest value compared with composites filled with
ite densities from 1.4 to 1.5 g/cm3, equivalent to low (light) density WFW, RHA, and LPW. Besides, the statistical analyses for the effect
436 J. Torkaman et al. / Construction and Building Materials 50 (2014) 432–436

2.5 Before soaking After soaking

Bulk density (g/cm3)





Control A B C D E
Treatment code

Fig. 4. Effects of variable parameters on the bulk density before and after soaking.

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