Thursday 23 November 2017

Research, development and innovation

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With a firm belief that long-term success can only be achieved through adherence to sustainability principles along with transferring value to the customer has driven TITAN efforts in Research, Development and Quality. The Group Research Development and Quality Department celebrating 20 years of service and support for all technical issues, ranging from safeguarding raw materials to quality optimization and control and ensures that all available new opportunities for a more environmental friendly approach in cement making (alternative materials and fuels, reduction of clinker factor and emissions, etc.) is achieved.

Research and development in particularly seeks to create economically viable products and processes with a focus in reducing the carbon dioxide (and other) emissions to a minimum, thus, TITAN has joined forces with 7 partners (academia, institutes and industry) across EU to investigate the calcium looping process. After recording a good progress in selecting limestones from several EU sources to be used as potential sorbents in the calcination part of the process, the data gathered will allow a first simulation of the process itself in the cement industry. This will be done both in retrofit and Greenfield cases and together with the examination of utilizing purge CaO (process derivative) will be a good baseline for any future attempt to upscale the process in our industry.

Characterization of Clinker Samples with Different Reactivity

Another collaboration program between TITAN, Portland Cement Association and MIT - Concrete Sustainability Hub is focused on the characterization of clinker qualities produced in TITAN plants utilizing simulation and multi - characterization techniques. Ultimately the partnership is looking to implement nanotechnology as a means to assess clinker inherent reactivity. Thus far results indicate that differences in clinkers’ crystal grain morphology, size distribution, and fracture toughness and composition homogeneity do exist. Moving to next step, that is correlating those factors with the strengths of lab-produced cements, we are visioning a good understanding of clinker behavior during hydration. This will work as a basis for producing tailor-made clinkers in the Group, a fact that will make one of our primal sustainability goals (i.e. clinker factor reduction) more easily achievable.

Measuring C3S crystals size is part of our characterization
Protocol for assessing the inherent reactivity of our clinkers

To further boost the sustainability profile of TITAN products, Research is concentrating on developing composite cements, reducing the clinker factor with the utilization of alternative raw materials. A practical example of this approach is the composite cement produced in TITAN’S Usje plant to be used in the construction of the dam in Sv Petka (FYROM); the project allowed for the Hydro Power Plant (HPP) to optimize the use of hydropower resources of the Treska River. In that case, availability of local supplementary cementing materials (natural and artificial pozzolana) enabled not only the production of ‘greener” products but in addition allowed full compliance with stringent technical requirements (e.g. low heat of hydration).

Practical example of “greener” cement applied; Case of Sv Petka
Dam in FYROM using a CEM IV with > 36% of clinker replacement

In co-operation with University of Ioannina the whole life cycle of concrete based structures is analyzed aiming at developing proposals for an optimized methodology that will result in structures with reduced environmental impact from cradle-to-grave. To do so each individual material used in a typical concrete structure is being analyzed using experimental data and available databases. Comparisons between concrete and other construction materials are also made. The investigation focuses on carbon emissions and energy usage equivalents. Aligned with these objectives is our application for LIFE+2011 project that will enable the research for coming up with specialized software that could quantify the serviceability and environmental impact of modern structure. In addition it is aimed that -depending on each projects technical requirements - an output in the form of “optimum” Ecocement (in terms of lower environmental burden and overall cost for the Group) will be derived that can aid us in our paramount sustainability priorities such as the use of alternative fuels and materials.

Another practical example of our preserving-the-natural-resources oriented research is the reuse of sludge water coming from the wash out of the concrete mixing truck drums. Its reuse is limited in the Greek RMC plants due to the restriction of the Hellenic Standard for concrete mixing water which forces the few RMC plants that recycle sludge water to unnecessary treatment-dilution and neutralization. The several parameters and water characteristics of the sludge water have been studied individually in order to define their effect on the mortars strength, workability, heat of hydration and evolution of hydration products. Additionally dry sludge was been utilized as limestone filler with satisfactory results due to its fine nature and coherent chemical characteristics.

In a path that already has proved successful in global practice, part of our resources have been dedicated to verify the effect of the use of recycled concrete aggregates (RCA) on the durability of structures and buildings. All significant properties will be determined and an optimum recipe will be proposed based on short and long term properties. The use of recycles concrete results in reduction of carbon emissions, energy usage and better waste management, all contributing towards sustainability.

Pilot pervious concrete application in ELS

Universities aiming at delivering a road of normal traffic constructed with the least CO2 burden utilizing alternative raw materials and hydraulic binders with minimum clinker content. The project will also involve wave-dissipating concrete blocks for ports. A Hydraulic binder, being in fact a very low clinker cement, was experimentally produced in our Thessaloniki Plant and used in a pilot application in an RCC road. Again the aim of the project is to come up with a sustainable low CO2 solution for road construction. A number of issues both in actual production, but mostly in the construction of the Road were encountered and were solved. The project will continue into the next year where aspects of the binder will be researched in more depth. The concrete road’s durability is also under testing.

Pilot RCC with Hydraulic binder application with a conventional Finisher

High value products with improved environmental benefits.

Another potential way to enhance sustainability in cement sector is to increase the durability and/or strength of cement-based materials. More and more, concrete and mortar are becoming complex materials that include not just ground clinker, pozzolanic admixtures and calcium sulfate but a range of specialized chemicals and new generation additions that constitute them able to withstand harsh environmental conditions but in addition “intelligent”. In our nanomodified concrete and mortar project, we are attempting to efficiently modify the cementitious matrix using nanoreinforcement. Different types of nano-fibers and nano-fillers are being investigated in order to enhance the mechanical properties of the hardened mortar / concrete, and simultaneously sustain key physical properties of the fresh mortar / concrete.

Electron microscope scan of carbon nanofibers bridging
crack in a cementitious matrix

The nanoreinforcement refers to two material groups, the one is nano-silica with different diameters, and the other is carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibres with different diameters and aspect ratios. The way the nanoreinforcement is expected to impact the sustainability is through the exceptional enhancement in the mechanical properties of the cementitious matrix attributed to additional failure mechanisms at the nano-scale and alteration of the hydration process. This would translate in substantial reduction of the weight of the structures resulting in reduced carbon footprint.

Intelligent products for the future.

Focused on the development of “greener” products, Titan has joined forces with other industrial partners and RTD centers to utilize the ability of photocatalysts like TiO2 to trigger reactions that can decrease exhaust gases concentration in urban environment and offer self-cleaning properties.
The novelty attempted in this project is to make sure that most (or preferable all) the photocatalyst will migrate to the surface of the material. This is the part that is exposed to UV radiation and can trigger the self-cleaning and de-polluting action of the element. Successful results have already been yielded with white cement production that decreased notably NOx pollutants by 30%, while our one-coat white renders containing the photocatalyst exhibited a self-cleaning ability after just 3 days exposure to natural light.

Photocatalytic action showing NOx reacting with active sites to create NO3- which is captured on the surface of the element before washed out.

Photocatalytic one-coat render self cleaning ability after 3 days of exposure
to sunlight (on the left the same mortar without TiO2)

Report 2016

WBCSD/CSI