Class-F Fly Ash and Ground Granulated Blast Furnace Slag (GGBS) Mixtures for Enhanced Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Applications
Sharma, Anil Kumar
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Fly ash and blast furnace slag are the two major industrial solid by-products generated in most countries including India. Although their utilization rate has increased in the recent years, still huge quantities of these material remain unused and are stored or disposed of consuming large land area involving huge costs apart from causing environmental problems. Environmentally safe disposal of Fly ash is much more troublesome because of its ever increasing quantity and its nature compared to blast furnace slag. Bulk utilization of these materials which is essentially possible in civil engineering in general and more particular in geotechnical engineering can provide a relief to environmental problems apart from having economic benefit. One of the important aspects of these waste materials is that they improve physical and mechanical properties with time and can be enhanced to a significant level by activating with chemical additives like lime and cement. Class-C Fly ashes which have sufficient lime are well utilized but class-F Fly ashes account for a considerable portion that is disposed of due to their low chemical reactivity. Blast furnace slag in granulated form is used as a replacement for sand to conserve the fast declining natural source. The granulated blast furnace slag (GBS) is further ground to enhance its pozzolanic nature. If GBS is activated by chemical means rather than grinding, it can provide a good economical option and enhance its utilization potential as well. GGBS is latent hydraulic cement and is mostly utilized in cement and concrete industries. Most uses of these materials are due to their pozzolanic reactivity. Though Fly ash and GGBS are pozzolanic materials, there is a considerable difference in their chemical composition. For optimal pozzolanic reactivity, sufficient lime and silica should be available in desired proportions. Generally, Fly ash has higher silica (SiO2) content whereas GGBS is rich in lime (CaO) content. Combining these two industrial wastes in the right proportion may be more beneficial compared to using them individually. The main objective of the thesis has been to evaluate the suitability of the class-F Fly ash/GGBS mixtures with as high Fly ash contents for Geotechnical and Geo-environmental applications. For this purpose, sufficient amount of class-F Fly ash and GGBS were collected and their mixtures were tested in the laboratory for analyzing their mechanical behavior. The experimental program included the evaluation of mechanical properties such as compaction, strength, compressibility of the Fly ash/GGBS mixtures at different proportions with GGBS content varying from 10 to 40 percent. An external agent such as chemical additives like lime or cement is required to accelerate the hydration and pozzolanic reactions in both these materials. Hence, addition of varying percentages of lime is also considered. However, these studies are not extended to chemically activate GBS and only GGBS is used in the present study. Unconfined compressive strength tests have been carried out on various Fly ash/ GGBS mixtures at different proportions at different curing periods. The test results demonstrated rise in strength with increase in GGBS content and with 30 and 40 percent of GGBS addition, the mixture showed higher strength than either of the components i.e. Fly ash or GGBS after sufficient curing periods. Addition of small amount of lime increased the strength tremendously which indicated the occurrence of stronger cementitious reactions in the Fly ash/GGBS mixtures than in samples containing only Fly ash. Improvement of the strength of the Fly ash/GGBS mixtures was explained through micro-structural and mineralogical studies. The microstructure and mineralogical studies of the original and the stabilized samples were investigated by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-Ray diffraction techniques respectively. These studies together showed the formation of cementitious compounds such as C-S-H, responsible for imparting strength to the pozzolanic materials, is better in the mixture containing 30 and 40 percent of GGBS content than in individual components. Resilient and permanent deformation behavior on an optimized mix sample of Fly ash and GGBS cured for 7 day curing period has been studied. The Resilient Modulus (Mr) is a measure of subgrade material stiffness and is actually an estimate of its modulus of elasticity (E). The permanent deformation behavior is also important in predicting the performance of the pavements particularly in thin pavements encountered mainly in rural and low volume roads. The higher resilient modulus values indicated its suitability for use as subgrade or sub-base materials in pavement construction. Permanent axial strain was found to increase with the number of load cycles and accumulation of plastic strain in the sample reduced with the increase in confining pressure. Consolidation tests were carried on Fly ash/GGBS mixtures using conventional oedometer to assess their volume stability. However, such materials develop increased strength with time and conventional rate of 24 hour as duration of load increment which requires considerable time to complete the test is not suitable to assess their volume change behavior in initial stages. An attempt was thus made to reduce the duration of load increment so as to reflect the true compressibility characteristics of the material as close as possible. By comparing the compressibility behavior of Fly ash and GGBS between conventional 24 hour and 30 minutes duration of load increment, it was found that 30 minutes was sufficient to assess the compressibility characteristics due to the higher rate of consolidation. The results indicated the compressibility of the Fly ash/GGBS mixtures slightly decreases initially but increase with increase in GGBS content. Addition of lime did not have any significant effect on the compressibility characteristics since the pozzolanic reaction, which is a time dependent process and as such could not influence due to very low duration of loading. Results were also represented in terms of constrained modulus which is a most commonly used parameter for the determination of settlement under one dimensional compression tests. It was found that tangent constrained modulus showed higher values only at higher amounts of GGBS. It was also concluded that settlement analysis can also be done by taking into account the constrained modulus. The low values of compression and recompression indices suggested that settlements on the embankments and fills (and the structures built upon these) will be immediate and minimal when these mixtures are used. In addition to geotechnical applications of Fly ash/GGBS mixture, their use for the removal of heavy metals for contaminated soils was also explored. Batch equilibrium tests at different pH and time intervals were conducted with Fly ash and Fly ash/GGBS mixture at a proportion of 70:30 by weight as adsorbents to adsorb lead ions. It was found that though uptake of lead by Fly ash itself was high, it increased further in the presence of GGBS. Also, the removal of lead ions increased with increase in pH of the solution but decreases at very high pH. The retention of lead ions by sorbents at higher pH was due to its precipitation as hydroxide. Results of the adsorption kinetics showed that the reaction involving removal of lead by both the adsorbents follow second-order kinetics. One of the major problems which geotechnical engineers often face is construction of foundations on expansive soils. Though stabilization of expansive soils with lime or cement is well established, the use of by-product materials such as Fly ash and blast furnace slag to achieve economy and reduce the disposal problem needs to be explored. To stabilize the soil, binder comprising of Fly ash and GGBS in the ratio of 70:30 was used. Different percentages of binder with respect to the soil were incorporated to the expansive soil and changes in the physical and engineering properties of the soil were examined. Small addition of lime was also considered to enhance the pozzolanic reactions by increasing the pH. It was found that liquid limit, plasticity index, swell potential and swell pressure of the expansive soil decreased considerably while the strength increased with the addition of binder. The effect was more pronounced with the addition of lime. Swell potential and swell pressure reduced significantly in the presence of lime. Based on the results, it can be concluded that the expansive soils can be successfully stabilized with the Fly ash-GGBS based binder with small addition of lime. This is also more advantageous in terms of lime requirement which is typically high when Fly ash, class-F in particular, is used alone to stabilize expansive soils. Based on the studies carried out in the present work, it is established that combination of Fly ash and GGBS can be advantageous as compared to using them separately for various geotechnical applications such as for construction of embankments/fills, stabilization of expansive soils etc. with very small amount of lime. Further, these mixtures have better potential for geo-environmental applications such as decontamination of soil. However, it is still a challenge to activate GBS without grinding.
- Civil Engineering (CiE)