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How to Make Alternatives to Portland Cement

Contents
1. 1 Short Description
2. 2 An introduction
3. 3 Binding systems from history
4. 4 Why continue to use alternative cements
5. 5 Types of alternative cements
5.1 Lime
◦ 5.2 Pozzolanas
◦ 5.3 Gypsum plaster
◦ 5.4 Other alternative binders
6. 6 References and further reading
7. 7 Useful addresses
8. 8 Related Articles
9. 9 Categories
Short Description
• Problem: Alternatives to Portland Cement
• Difficulty: Medium to high

An introduction

Cement, or some form of cementing material is an essential ingredient in most forms of building construction. Cement is the vital binding agent in
concretes, mortars and renders, and is used for the production of walling blocks and roofing tiles.
Since its invention in the first half of the 19th century, Portland cement has become the most widely available cementitious material. Its dominance over
alternative cements has been in part, due to successful, aggressive marketing. This is despite its clear technical disadvantages for certain applications. In
addition Portland cement is relatively expensive to produce and is often in short supply in many developing countries. Typically, a rural African labourer
may need to work for up to two weeks to earn enough money to buy one bag of cement. In comparison alternative cements can be produced locally, on a
small scale and at much lower cost.
Alternative cements are not capable of replacing Portland cement totally, but they can be used in the many construction applications where they have
advantages. These are as mortars, renders and non-structural concretes. Alternative cements are not normally considered suitable for structural applications
such as reinforced concrete beams and columns.
The most common of these so-called 'alternative' binders is lime, to which other materials, known as pozzolanas, can be added to enhance strength and
water resistance. Other binders such as gypsum, sulphur, bitumen, mud and animal dung have also been used.

Figure 1: Participants at a workshop in Uganda visiting a very small traditional lime plant ©Practical Action/Simon L'epine Ekless
Binding systems from history

The simplest, and possibly the earliest, binding material used was wet mud, and there are records of its use in ancient Egypt. Another example of a binder
from the distant past is the use of naturally occurring bitumen by the Babylonians and Assyrians in their brick and alabaster (gypsum plaster) constructions.
Lime was known to the Greeks and was widely used by the Romans. The Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius published the first specification for the
use of lime in building in his celebrated work De Architectura. The Romans also knew how to make a lime-pozzolana cement by adding materials such as
volcanic ash or powdered bricks, tiles and pottery to lime.
That lime is an appropriate and durable binding material, especially when mixed with pozzolana, is well proven. The Pont du Gard at Nimes in France, a
Roman aqueduct built in AD 18 with hydraulic lime-based mortar, is still waterproof; the excellence of the mortar is attributed to the selection of the
materials and to the time spent tamping the mix into place during construction.
The rebuilding of the Eddystone lighthouse in the English Channel by John Smeaton in 1756 is a more recent development in 'lime technology'. It was
achieved through Smeaton recognizing the hydraulic properties of lime that result from the burning of a clayey limestone. To make the highly water-
resistant mortar needed for bonding the courses of stone, he thoroughly mixed this already hydraulic lime with an equal proportion of imported Italian
pozzolana (so adding extra 'hydraulicity' to the mortar).
Why continue to use alternative cements

Major advantages of alternatives to Portland cement are that they are usually cheaper to produce, needing much lower or even negligible capital inputs to
get started, and requiring far less imported technology and equipment. They can also be produced on a small scale to supply a local market resulting in
greatly reduced transportation costs and a much greater degree of local accountability in the supply of building materials.

Figure 2: Medium-scale Portland cement plant, India ©Practical Action


From an environmental angle lime-pozzolana cements can be produced with lower energy input than either lime by itself or Portland cement - giving a half
to one third consumption in use compared with Portland cement and about one fifth compared with lime by itself. Low energy consumption is particularly
prevalent with naturally occurring pozzolanas, or those from waste materials, which might need little additional processing other than drying. The use of
clay as a binder, of course, results in negligible energy consumption in production.
Lower production costs mean lower prices for the consumer, enabling those who could not afford Portland cement to purchase and use a quality binding
material.
Pozzolanic cements additionally have numerous other technical advantages to the user:
• Improved workability
• Improved water retention/reduced bleeding
• Improved sulphate resistance
• Improved resistance to alkali - aggregate reaction
• Lower heat of hydration

In many large civil engineering programmes involving mass concrete works, Portland cement-pozzolana mixes are specified due to these technical
advantages as well as to save money.
Social advantages of alternative cements to Portland cement include the potential for affordable quality housing and the opportunity for local employment
generation.
The technical and economic advantages of alternative cements are not lost on architects and engineers from developed countries. Increasingly, architects,
are becoming aware of the brittleness associated with Portland cement mortars, for example, and are now specifying blended lime/Portland cement mortars
instead. As well as re-discovering the 'lost arts' of using alternative binders, recent research has enabled the properties of alternative binders to be
thoroughly investigated and catalogued. A body of experience has built up on the appropriate application of traditional binders such as clay, lime and
pozzolanas, not only in the repair and conservation of historic buildings, monuments and structures but also in adventurous and innovative new build
applications.
In some developing countries traditional binders are still slighted, probably because they might be associated with poverty or considered to be low status
materials. Their performance and technical specifications might, completely unjustifiably, also be considered inferior to Portland cement, they might not be
widely produced or available, or the skills to produce and use them might well have disappeared. A good case can be made for disseminating the developed
country experience to the South more widely. This would increase interest and awareness of alternative binders, allow producers and users to gain skills and
confidence and determine the rightful place of alternative binders in appropriate building for sustainable development.
Types of alternative cements

Lime

There are two forms of lime: quicklime and hydrated lime.


Quicklime is produced by heating rock or stone containing calcium carbonate (limestone, marble, chalk, shells, etc.) to a temperature of around 1000°C for
several hours in a process known as 'calcining' or sometimes simply 'burning'. It is an unstable and slightly hazardous product and therefore is normally
'hydrated' or 'slaked', by adding water, becoming not only more stable but also easier and safer to handle.
To produce dry powdered hydrated lime just sufficient water is added for the quicklime lumps to break down to a fine powder. This material would have a
'shelf life' of only a number of weeks, depending on storage conditions. 'Old' hydrated lime would have partially carbonated and become a less effective
binder.
However, if quicklime is hydrated with a large excess of water and well agitated, it forms a milky suspension known as milk of lime. Allowing the solids to
settle, and drawing off the excess water, forms a paste-like residue, termed lime putty, which is the form of lime which can be used in building applications
to best effect. This will keep almost indefinitely and, in fact, improves with age. In most countries, though, lime is most widely available as a powder, due to
its widespread utilisation in process and treatment industries rather than in construction. Lime putty, which needs a stiff bag or container for transportation,
is more rarely produced.
Limes with high calcium content, often called 'fat' or 'white' limes are desirable for most industries, although the construction industry can use limes
containing impurities. For instance, limestones containing a proportion of clay are often seen as an advantage in building as they produce hydraulic limes
which will set under water and will produce stronger mortars.
In the construction industry, lime, in its hydrated or putty form, is mixed with aggregate and water to produce concrete or mortar in the usual manner. Lime
putties generally produce mortars and renders of excellent quality and consistency.
Plain lime-sand mortars are quite weak; any early adhesive strength results from drying out, and longer term hardening occurs through the action of the air's
carbon dioxide on the lime.
Traditionally lime renders and plasters were often mixed with animal hair to improve cohesion. Today the addition of gypsum or Portland cement and/or
pozzolanas to increase durability and give faster setting times is usual.

Figure 3: Hydrating of quicklime using a watering can Chenkumbi Limeworks, Malawi © Practical Action/Dave Mather

Pozzolanas

Pozzolanas are materials which, although not cementitious in themselves, will combine chemically with lime in the presence of water to form a strong
cementing material. They include:
• Volcanic ash
• Power station fly ash (usually known as pfa)
• Burnt clays
• Ash from some burnt plant materials
• Silicious earths (such as diatomite)

Materials not already in a fine powdered form must be ground, and some require calcining at around 600 -750 °C to optimize their pozzolanic properties.
Pozzolanas can be mixed with lime and/or Portland cement and can improve quality and reduce costs of concretes made from both materials.
In some countries (e.g. India and Kenya), pozzolanas are mixed with Portland cement and sold as blended cement, which in many respects is similar to
Portland cement. In other countries (e.g. Cuba) lime/pozzolana/Portland cement blends are sold as an alternative to Portland cement. Lime-pozzolana
cement by itself can make an excellent cementing material for low-rise construction or mass concrete and in some countries (e.g. Indonesia) is still
produced extensively.
Pozzolanas can also be mixed with lime and/or Portland cement at the construction site but care must be taken to ensure the pozzolana is of a consistent
quality and that the materials are thoroughly mixed.
Gypsum plaster

Gypsum is a not an uncommon mineral, and needs only a low temperature, of around 150°C, to convert it into a very useful binding material, known as
hemi-hydrate or plaster of Paris.
On its own, plaster of Paris sets very rapidly when mixed with water. To give time for it to be applied, around 5% of lime and 0.8% of a retarding material
(such as the keratin glue-like extracts from boiling fish bones or animal hoof and horn) are added to the plaster.
Retarded plaster of Paris can be used on its own or mixed with up to three parts of clean, sharp sand. Hydrated lime can be added to increase its strength and
water resistance. Gypsum plasters can be reinforced with various fibrous materials from reeds to chopped glass fibres.
Gypsum plaster is not wholly resistant to moist conditions and so is normally used internally, except in the drier Mediterranean and Middle Eastern
countries where it has traditionally been used as an external render.
Other alternative binders

Sulphur is used as an alternative binder in the Gulf region, where a million tonnes a year comes from natural gas plants in the United Arab Emirates. In
some other locations, such as St Lucia, sulphur that accumulates around the vents of volcanic fumaroles is utilized.
A mixture of 15 - 25% molten sulphur, heated to around 130°C with 5% of organic additive, and 75 - 85% sand or other mineral aggregates which have
previously been heated to 160 - 170°C, can be cast and de-moulded in only about five minutes. The additive is mainly used to impart durability. Sulphur
concrete has applications which either exploit its quick curing and corrosion resistance or in situations where Portland cement concrete is expensive,
unavailable or, for example in freezing conditions, impracticable.
Earth mixed with water to form mud has been, and continues to be, used over much of the world as a binding material. It develops quite a strong adhesion
to fired clay brick and sun dried mud brick masonry and is satisfactory provided the mud mortar is protected from rainwater. A useful practice is to use mud
mortar in the internal parts of the wall and do the external pointing in a cement or lime-based mortar. The best soils for building purposes contain both sands
and clays and therefore it may be necessary to mix two different soils to obtain good results. Mud mortars have, traditionally, been improved by the addition
of organic matter such as straw and cow dung.
A number of other alternative binders have been used in a number of applications, which generally relate to soil stabilisation, waterproofing, or the
application of a waterproofing or wear resistant coating to vulnerable earth based constructions. Such binders include tars and bitumens (as by-products
from petro-chemical industries), sodium silicate (produced from the heat activated reaction between silica and sodium hydroxide), casein (milk whey), oils
and fats, molasses, and certain locally specific plant-based materials such as gum arabic, other specific resins and the sap, latexes and juices from specific
trees and other plants.

Pozzolanas - Calcined Clays and Shales, and Volcanic Ash - Technical Brief

Short Description

• Problem: Low-Cost Alternative to Portland Cement


• Idea: Use Pozzolanas instead of Portland Cement
• Information Type: Application

Pozzolanas are materials containing reactive silica and/or alumina which on their own have little or no binding property. However, when mixed with lime,
in the presence of water, they will set and harden like cement. Pozzolanas are an important ingredient in the production of alternative binding materials to
Portland cement (OPC). Alternative cements provide an excellent technical option to OPC at a much lower cost and have the potential to make a significant
contribution towards the provision of low-cost building materials and consequently affordable shelter.

Figure 1: house plastered with lime-pozzolana mix, Rwanda


Pozzolanas can be used in combination with lime and/or OPC. When mixed with lime, pozzolanas will improve the properties of lime-based mortars,
concretes and renders for use in a wide range of building applications. Alternatively, they can be blended with OPC to improve the durability of concrete
and its workability, and reduce its cost considerably.
A wide variety of siliceous or aluminous materials may be pozzolanic, and historically the two most widely used of these are calcined clays and volcanic
ash. Calcined clay in the form of crushed fired clay bricks, tiles or pottery has traditionally been used for improving the properties of lime mortars and
renders. (It is known as surkhi in India, homra in Egypt and semen merah in Indonesia.) Shales are harder than clays and have similar mineral contents
resulting in similar pozzolanic properties.
Volcanic ash was first used as a pozzolana by the Romans from deposits close to the village of Pozzuoli, near Naples, hence the name.
Clays and shales

Clays or shales suitable for use as a pozzolana are very widespread and are readily available in almost all regions of the world. They have been used as
cement replacement materials on large-scale construction programmes in a number of countries, particularly the US, Brazil, Egypt and India. For example,
in Egypt, a lime-calcined clay mortar was used in the core of the first Aswan dam built in 1902 and an OPC-calcined clay mixture was used in the
construction of the Sennar dam in Sudan.
However this large-scale utilization has declined in the last three decades, due to the availability of pozzolanas which require less processing and are
therefore cheaper, such as volcanic ash and pulverized fuel ash. Where these are not available, the use of calcined clay still has considerable potential.
Although sandy clays are often used as a pozzolana, frequently in the form of crushed fired clay bricks, the coarser sand is not reactive. The pozzolanic
activity resides in the finer clay mineral fraction, and sandy clays may not produce the best pozzolanas. Despite their variable pozzolanic performance, the
use of ground underfired or reject bricks and tiles as a pozzolana is likely to continue on a small scale due to the low cost of these waste materials.
Plastic clays, as used in tile manufacture or for pottery, can produce better pozzolanas, although the composition of good pozzolanic clays is variable. Table
1 gives the chemical composition (on an oven-dry basis} of some clays in India which produce pozzolanas conforming to the Indian Standard for calcined
clay pozzolana (IS 1344.1981).

Constituents Contents by
weight

Silica + Alumina + Not less than


Iron Oxide 70%

Silica Not less than


49%

Calcium Oxide Not more


than 10%

Magnesium Oxide Not more


than 3%

Sulphur trioxide Not more


Constituents Contents by
weight

Silica + Alumina + Not less than


Iron Oxide 70%

Silica Not less than


49%

Calcium Oxide Not more


than 10%

Magnesium Oxide Not more


than 3%

Sulphur trioxide Not more


than 3%

Water soluble alkali Not more


than 0.1%

Water soluble Not more


material than 1%

Loss on ignition Not more


than 10%
Table 1. Chemical composition of clay suitable for use in calcined clay pozzolanas
Raw materials for calcined clay pozzolanas should be free from coarse sand or gravel greater than about O.6mm in diameter.

Figure 2: Volcanic ash pozzolana being excavated - Rwanda


In tropical climates, clay deposits are often subjected to a form of chemical weathering which leaches out the silica and alkalis resulting in a accumulation
of ferric and aluminium hydroxides. The soils produced are bauxitic (aluminium bearing) and lateritic (iron bearing). Although these soils are low in silica,
normally considered essential for a pozzolanic reaction, both will exhibit some pozzolanic reactivity when calcined. In general, the reactivity of laterite is
low but bauxite can show reasonable results and its use as a pozzolana should be considered if silica-bearing clays are not available.
Processing of calcined clays and shales

Calcining
The early stages of processing calcined clay pozzolanas are similar to the moulding and firing process for clay bricks, tiles or pottery, and traditionally the
rejects from these industries have been used as pozzolanas. The optimum calcining temperatures for clay pozzolanas are slightly below those for clay bricks
or tiles and therefore better results are likely to be obtained if the moulding and firing process are designed specifically for pozzolana production. The Indian
Standard (IS1344 1981) gives the following range of temperatures for different types of clays:

Montmorillo 600 to
nite type 800°C
Kaolinite 700 to
type 800°C
Illite type 900 to
1000°C
In practice, most clay soils consist of a mixture of minerals, and a calcination temperature of 700-800°C is normally considered suitable. The optimum
period of calcination will vary with clay type but is normally around one hour or less.
Rotary kilns have been the most common means of calcining clays and have been extensively used in the US and Brazil. Natural gas or oil is normally used
as a fuel and outputs vary from 12.5 to 100 tonnes per day.
Several Indian institutions, including the Central Road Research Institute and the National Building Organization, have undertaken studies to design and
test kilns specifically for clay pozzolana production with production rates of between 5 and 20 tonnes per day. Two of the kilns are coal fired and are
designed on the natural down-draught and forced air vertical shaft concepts similar to those commonly used, respectively, in the ceramics and lime
industries.
A third kiln utilizes the fluidized bed system. Dried and pulverized clay is allowed to fall through a series of fins against an updraft of hot gases generated
by oil burners. Although the contact time is extremely short, of the order of a few minutes, it is apparently sufficient to calcine the ground clay feed. The
cost of production, despite the cost of using oil as a fuel, is reported to be competitive with other methods.
Grinding
The second step in processing is the grinding of the calcined clay to a fine powder. On a small scale, this has traditionally been performed with human or,
more commonly, animal-powered methods. Ball mills are more suited to large-scale applications. Some calcined clays, such as kaolin, will be softer than
others and will therefore require less grinding in order to achieve the desired fineness.
Volcanic ash

Deposits of volcanic ash are likely to be found wherever there are active or recently active volcanos, for example in the Mediterranean, the Pacific region,
and central and eastern Africa. The physical condition of volcanic ashes may range from loose fine material to coarse deposits containing quite large
particles. Deposits may be loose, with an appearance and texture similar to a compacted coal or wood ash. Other deposits are cemented, sometimes with
appearance and properties similar to stone, and in this form they are normally referred to as tuffs or trassy. The colour of deposits can vary from off-white to
dark grey.

Constituents Contents by
weight

Silica 45-65%

Alumina + Iron Oxide 15-30%

Calcium + Magnesium Up to 15%


Oxide + alkalis

Loss on ignition Up to 12%


Table 2. Composition of volcanic ash suitable for use as a pozzolana
The pozzolanic reactivity of ash deposits can vary considerably. The quality of material may also vary within a single deposit or a single geologically
consistent stratum, with variations in depth being common.
Regular testing is therefore required if volcanic ash is to be used as a pozzolana and this has been a constraint to its commercial exploitation. However,
volcanic ash is, or has recently been, successfully used as a pozzolana in many countries including the US, Germany, Japan, Italy, Kenya and Indonesia,
with pilot plants tested in Tanzania and Rwanda. For example, 200,000 tonnes of volcanic pozzolana were used in the construction of the Glen Canyon dam
in the US, completed in 1964.
Volcanic pozzolanas usually have chemical composition within the limits shown on table 2.
Processing of volcanic ash

Once the deposits have been excavated most volcanic ashes will require only minor processing before use as a pozzolana. Many ashes are only loosely
cemented and can easily be excavated by hand, although others may need mechanical or pneumatic equipment.
Some lithic tuffs may require blasting with explosives. The ash may require drying, and in dry sunny climates this can simply be achieved by spreading the
ash in a thin layer on a specially prepared drying floor, similar to those commonly used to dry crops. Alternatively, in wet climates, and for large quantities,
inclined rotary driers are normally used.
If the ash is cemented it will need to be crushed before entering the dryer. Some volcanic ashes will already be in a very fine, loose powdered form and may
not require crushing or grinding. Other ashes may be of sufficient fineness but be cemented together. These will require milling or crushing. Coarse ashes
and lithic tuffs will need to be ground in a ball mill or similar.
Utilization of pozzolanas

A fineness similar or slightly greater than that of OPC is usually recommended for pozzolanas although some have been ground considerably finer. The
2
minimum fineness recommended by the Indian standards for pozzolana (IS 1344. 1981. Calcined clays) is 320 and 250m /kg for grade 1 and 2 pozzolanas
respectively, measured by the Blaine air permeability test.
Once the pozzolana has been ground, it must be blended with lime and/or OPC to produce a pozzolanic cement. This can be accomplished by human or
animal-powered methods but full homogeneity is unlikely to be achieved and the strength and consistency of cements blended in this manner will be
variable. Mechanical techniques, preferably intergrinding in a ball mill or, as a second option, dry blending in a pan or concrete mixer, will give better
results in terms of both strength and consistency.
Pozzolanas can be used with either lime and/or OPC. With the latter, replacement of up to 25-30% is common, although research has suggested that for non-
structural purposes replacement of up to 50% can be used. With lime pozzolana cements mixtures of 1:1 to 1:4 (lime:pozzolana) by weight are used. The
addition of 5-10% of OPC will improve strength and decrease setting times. A larger percentage of OPC may be required if only poor quality pozzolanas are
available. The exact ratio of the ingredients will depend upon the quality of the respective raw materials and on the required characteristics of the concrete
or mortar made from the cement.
A good calcined clay or volcanic ash pozzolana should produce a cement, when mixed with a good quality lime, capable of producing concretes and
mortars with 7 and 28 days strengths in excess of 2 and 4 mega pascals (MPa) respectively. Pozzolana strength development is slow and long-term strengths
should be considerably higher, as much as 15MPa by 2 years.
Strength development can be accelerated if up to 4 per cent of fine gypsum is added to the lime-pozzolana mix.
Other leaflets in this series deal in more detail with the production, properties and utilization of pozzolana cements, and with testing and performance
standards.
Pozzolanas - Rice Husk Ash (RHA) and Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA) - Technical Brief
Short Description

• Problem: Low-Cost Alternative to Portland Cement


• Idea: Use Pozzolanas instead of Portland Cement
• Information Type: Application
Pozzolanas are materials containing reactive silica and/or alumina which on their own have little or no binding property but, when mixed with lime in the
presence of water, will set and harden like a cement.
Pozzolanas are an important ingredient in the production of alternative cementing materials to Portland cement (OPC). Alternative cements provide an
excellent technical option to OPC at a much lower cost and have the potential to make a significant contribution towards the provision of low-cost building
materials and consequently affordable shelter.
Pozzolanas can be used in combination with lime and/or OPC. When mixed with lime, pozzolanas will greatly improve the properties of lime-based
mortars, concretes and renders for use in a wide range of building applications. Alternatively, they can be blended with OPC to improve the durability of
concrete and its workability, and considerably reduce its cost.
A wide variety of siliceous or aluminous materials may be pozzolanic, including the ash from a number of agricultural and industrial wastes. Of the
agricultural wastes, rice husk has been identified as having the greatest potential as it is widely available and, on burning, produces a relatively large
proportion of ash, which contains around 90% silica.
Pulverized fuel ash (PFA), which is often referred to as fly ash, has probably the greatest potential of the industrial wastes due to its widespread availability
in spite of its only moderate pozzolanic reactivity. It is probably the pozzolana in greatest use today with a worldwide estimate of over 30 million tonnes in
use and an annual increase in usage of about 10%.
Rice husk ash

About one tonne of husk is produced from five tonnes of rice paddy and it has been estimated that some 120 million tonnes of husk could be available
annually on a global basis for pozzolana production. As the ash content by weight is about 20%, there are potentially 24 million tonnes of RHA available as
a pozzolana.
Rice is grown in large quantities in many Third World countries including China, the Indian sub-continent, South-east Asia and, in smaller quantities, in
some regions of Africa and South America. Table 1 gives the rice production of some of the principal rice growing countries of the world in the early 1980s.
Production is likely to have more than doubled in most of these countries by 2004.
Traditionally, rice husk has been considered a waste material and has generally been disposed of by dumping or burning, although some has been used as a
low-grade fuel. Nevertheless, RHA has been successfully used as a pozzolana in commercial production in a number of countries including Columbia,
Thailand and India.
Research and pilot projects have been undertaken in most of the major rice-growing countries of the world. However it has been estimated that the total
world production of cement based on RHA is only 30,000 tonnes per year, mainly undertaken in small-scale village production units. It is clear therefore
that considerable potential exists to expand production on both a small and large scale.
Table 1. Production of principal rice growing countries (million tonnes)

Country 198 198 198


0 1 2

Bangladesh 20. 20. 20.


8 1 4

Brazil 9.8 8.6 9.7

Burma 13. 14. 14.


3 2 0

China 142 146 148


.3 .2 .0

India 79. 81. 74.


8 7 0

Indonesia 29. 32. 32.


8 8 8

Philippines 7.6 7.7 8.4

Republic of 4.9 7.0 7.6


Korea

Thailand 17. 17. 17.


4 8 0

World Total 397 412 406


.2 .2 .6
Processing and production of RHA

• Combustion
To produce the best pozzolanas, the burning of the husk must be carefully controlled to keep the temperature below 700°C and to ensure that the creation of
carbon is kept to a minimum by supplying an adequate quantity of air. At burning temperatures below 700°C an ash rich in amorphous silica is formed
which is highly reactive. Temperatures above 700°C produce a crystalline silica which is far less reactive.
The presence of large quantities of carbon in the ash will adversely affect the strength of any concrete or mortar produced using RHA cements. Where
possible, the carbon content of the ash should be limited to a maximum of 10%, although some studies have suggested higher percentages can be tolerated
with only a relatively small decrease in strength.
Rice husks which have been burnt in large open heaps to dispose of waste husks, or burnt as a fuel in an industrial furnace, are unlikely to produces ashes
with the specification described above. In particular, they are likely to be crystalline due to high combustion temperatures. Although this does not rule out
their use as a pozzolana, ashes composed of crystalline silica will require a considerable amount of grinding (see below) to produce an acceptable reactivity.
Even then they are unlikely to match the quality of amorphous ash.
There are several designs of small simple incinerators, normally made of fired clay bricks, which are capable of burning ash at temperatures below 700°C
and without excessive quantities of carbon. The temperature is monitored by a pyrometer (an industrial instrument for measuring high temperatures) and
rapid cooling is necessary if the temperature rises above 650°C. This is normally achieved by removing the ash and spreading it on the ground. Incinerators
of this type are normally used in banks of three or four to produce approximately one tonne of ash per day.
Small incinerators have a number of advantages: they are simple and inexpensive to construct, easy to operate and will produce ash of an acceptable quality.
On the other hand, their output is rather small. They also require constant supervision and, perhaps most importantly, they make no use of the energy value
of the husk.
Weight for weight rice husk has an energy value about half that of coal and is therefore an important potential energy source. Although rice husk is still
burnt as waste, this practice is likely to become less common, as other more traditional fuel sources become less readily available and/or more expensive.
Recently attempts have been made to design kilns or furnaces for husks which will utilize the potential energy value of the husk by making it available for
useful work, and which control the temperature of combustion to below 700°C. The transportation of rice husk is not an economically viable option, even
over quite short distances, due to its low bulk density and the fact that only 20% of its weight can be utilized as a pozzolana. The location of incinerators or
kilns has to be close to a rice mill with sufficient capacity to supply the quantity of husk required for cement production.
• Grinding
The second step in processing is grinding the RHA to a fine powder, and ball or hammer mills are usually used for this purpose. Crystalline ash is harder
and will require more grinding in order to achieve the desired fineness.
A fineness similar to or slightly greater than that of OPC is usually recommended for pozzolanas although some have been ground considerably finer. The
2
minimum fineness recommended by the Indian Standards for pozzolana (1344) is 320 and 250m /kg for grade 1 and 2 pozzolanas respectively, measured
by the Blaine air permeability test. Although this standard is for calcined clay, the fineness requirements are also suitable for RHA.
Pulverised fuel ash

PFA is a residue from the process of combustion in the boilers of coal fired power stations. It is extracted as a fine powder from the flue gasses and hence its
other common name ‘fly ash’. The ash extracted from the bottom of power station boilers, furnace bottom ash, is less suitable as a pozzolana.
There are two types of PFA, depending upon the type of coal used. These are high lime and low lime, with the former having a lime content above 10% and
therefore possessing some cementing properties on its own. Low lime PFA has a lime content below 10%. Both types of PFA can be used as a pozzolana.
PFA is available, in large quantities, in countries or regions using coal fired electricity generating stations. These include most of Europe, North America,
the Indian sub-continent, China and southern Africa.
The chemical composition of PFA will depend upon the type of coal used and can vary considerably, as can pozzolanic reactivity. Table 2 gives typical
compositions of British, US and Indian PFA’s.
Acceptable limits of composition, derived from the various national standards are:
• The percentage of the main oxides, SiO + Al O + Fe O , should not fall below 70%; • The SO content should not exceed 5% (Some Standards
2 2 3 2 3 3
specify 2.5%); • The MgO content should not exceed 5%; • The loss on ignition should not exceed 12% (Some Standards give a 5 or 6% limit).

In addition some standards specify that the alkali metal (Na O) content should not exceed 1.5 %, although this is only relevant if it is used with reactive
2
aggregate.
Physically PFA is a fine (less than 75 micron) powder, with a rounded particle shape and a colouring ranging from cream to dark grey. Its loose bulk density
3
is approximately 800kg/m , which is roughly two-thirds that of OPC. As with all pozzolanas, fineness is critical to the performance of PFA, with finer
pozzolanas giving faster pozzolanic reactions. Electrostatically collected PFA will be finer than PFA collected mechanically and is therefore normally
preferred as a pozzolana. The Blaine method of measuring fineness is felt to be unreliable for PFA and the simpler sieving technique is often better.
Standards give a maximum to be retained on a 45 micron sieve of 12.5 to 50% depending upon the country of origin.
PFA is not normally ground to produce a finer material as this will break up the rounded particle shape which is important for its water reduction and
increased workability properties.
Unlike most other pozzolanas, PFA requires no processing before use. It is normally transported in bulk to the cement factory or construction site where it is
blended with OPC and/or lime to form a pozzolanic cement.
Table 2. Typical percentage compositions of PFA

Ori Si Al2 Fe2 Ca Mg Alk S L


gin O O O alis O OI
2 O3 O3
3

US 47. 18. 19. 7. 1.1 4.0 2. 1.


A 4 2 2 0 8 2

Brit 45. 24. 12. 3. 2.5 4.2 0. 4.


ish 9 4 3 6 9 1

Indi 54. 23. 12. 2. 1.4 - 0. 5.


an 0 7 1 6 03 0
Utilization of RHA and PFA

The pozzolana must be blended with lime and/or OPC to produce a pozzolanic cement. This can be accomplished by human or animal-powered methods
but full homogeneity is unlikely to be achieved and the strength and consistency of cements blended in this manner will be variable.
Mechanical techniques, preferably intergrinding in a ball mill or, as a second option, dry blending in a pan or concrete mixer, will give better results in
terms of both strength and consistency.
Pozzolanas can be used with either lime and/or OPC. With the latter, replacement of up to 25-30% is common, although research has suggested that for non-
structural purposes replacement of up to 50% can be used. With lime pozzolana cements, mixtures of 1:1 to 1:4 lime: pozzolana) by weight are used. A
small percentage (normally 5-10%) addition of OPC will improve strength and decrease setting times. A larger percentage of OPC may be required if only
poor quality pozzolanas are available. The exact ratio of the ingredients will depend upon the quality of the respective raw materials and on the required
characteristics of the concrete or mortar made from the cement.
Amorphous RHA is a high quality pozzolana which, when mixed with a good quality lime, should produce a cement giving 7 and 28 days compressive
strengths of mortars well in excess of 2 and 4 mega pascals (MPa) respectively. The pozzolanic reaction of RHA is relatively fast and, unlike most other
pozzolanas, most of the strength gain of RHA-based cements will take place during the initial 28 days.
The pozzolanic reactivity of PFA is variable. In some countries quality-assured PFA is available and this should produce mortars and concretes to meet
Standard strength requirements, similar to those quoted above. Other PFAs should be carefully tested. PFA is rarely used on its own to make a lime-
pozzolana cement, although it has been used in combination with other pozzolanas.
The low bulk density and rounded particle shape of PFA give it better water-reducing and workability-enhancing properties than other pozzolanas. It is
therefore ideal for blending with OPC, particularly if there is a coal-fired power station in the vicinity and it is available at low cost and in large quantities.
PFA is also ideal for use in block and brick manufacture.
Other leaflets in this series deal in more detail with the production, properties and utilization of pozzolana cements and with testing and performance
standards.