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By-products for Building Materials

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - By-BM (By-products for Building Materials)

Reporting period: 2016-04-25 to 2018-04-24

What is the problem/issue being addressed?
The construction industry is critical to innovation and employment in the EU economy, providing 20 million direct jobs and about 10 % of the EU’s GDP. The new types of synthetic materials incorporation industrial by-products hampered by public health concerns related to immobilisation of potentially toxic compounds and in particular radiation exposure from natural isotope content. The By-BM project is focusing on the investigation of the safe reuse possibilities of secondary raw materials in construction material industry.

Why is it important for society?
The specific problem for the use of by-products is that it may contain, an elevated concentration of Naturally Occurring Radionuclides (NOR) which can significantly contribute to the received radiation dose of residents. This occurs via two exposure pathways: 1. External exposure directly caused by the emitted gamma radiation from the NOR present in the building materials. 2. The internal exposure is due to the inhalation of radon isotopes (Rn-222 radon). After inhalation of radon, predominantly the radon progenies are responsible for the irradiation of the cells of the pulmonary system. Radon is estimated to cause between 3-14% of all lung cancers. In Europe, this corresponds to 20,000 deaths every year.

What are the overall objectives?
Progressing the state-of-the-art across several scientific disciplines, the primary objectives of the By-BM project in co-operation between the host, the secondment (NuTeC, UHasselt, Belgium), scientific programs (COST Action TU1301, NORM4Building) are the following to provide innovative solutions in reuse and methodology of by-products for geopolymers. The By-BM project is developing environmentally-safe geopolymers comply with necessary safety standards.
By-BM Natural Occurring Radioactivity database
The current version of the By-BM database contains individual data about Ra-226, Th-232, K-40 activity concentration of 431 by-products and 1095 construction materials and raw materials was collected from 48 countries. Visualisation of the database was performed with Tableau software and published online on the project website. Based on the By-BM database core data, a peer-reviewed journal article was recently published in the Construction and Building Materials (DOI: 10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2017.05.167)
The database and its concept were presented by the Fellow at international scientific conferences:
• 2017, NORM4Building Final Symposia, Rome, Italy
• 2017, EUNORM Symposia 2017, NPL, Teddington, UK
• 2016, EANNORM: 8th Workshop, Stockholm, Sweden
• 2016, NORM VIII Symposium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Study of natural radioactivity related issues in geopolymer research:
The screening of by-products used at Queen's University Belfast was performed by the Fellow. The NOR content was determined with HPGe gamma-spectrometry in the secondment institute (NuTeC, Belgium).
Altogether, 19 different by-product samples were studied from various origin. All the by-products were tested to get information about the main chemical composition, and the mineralogical composition was determined by XRF (X-ray Fluorescence) and XRD (X-ray Diffraction), respectively. The correlation was investigated between the main chemical compounds and the NOR content.
Four different geopolymer series were studied using activated slag + Ground Granulated Blast-Furnace Slag, (GGBFS); red mud + GGBFS; 2 different fly ashes + GGBFS mixture series. In the case of fly ash containing geopolymers, the relative radon release rate increased significantly because of the structure of the fly ash particles. The multilayer shell structure opened, the inner formerly hermetically enclosed spaces were opened which cause significant increment regarding the radon release rate. This result is the most important scientific outcome of the project since the geopolymer application in construction material industry usually based on mixtures with elevated level fly ash content. The results will be presented on REMEDIATE conference will be held in Belfast, UK, September 2018. Two abstracts were submitted about the screening of by-products and the studied geopolymers. The conference materials will be published in the peer-reviewed special issue of Science of Total Environment. Currently, the manuscripts are under internal review of all the co-authors.
The research results and the concept have been already presented at international scientific conferences and research institutes:
• 2017, EFRAT User meeting, JRC, Geel, Belgium
• 2017, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
• 2017, 2nd Symposium on Research activities in targeted treatments of residues, KULeuven, Leuven, Belgium
• 2016, V. TREICEP, Veszprem, Hungary
• JRC-Geel and SCK CEN in Belgium, IBR Consulting in the Netherlands
The Fellow was an active participant of COST Action TU1301 NORM4Building project. As a result of the Action, a book was published. The Fellow was a co-author of a book chapter: 2017, From raw materials to NORM by-products, in Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials in Construction. Elsevier, pp. 135–182. doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-102009-8.00006-2
The Fellow was hosting visiting scientists three times at Queen’s University. As a result of the visits, the Fellow project had a chance to join the leaching experiments performed at NuTeC which is essential to study the application of geopolymers for radioactive waste cementation.
The official website of the project was created. 1800 visitors from 73 countries have visited the site. Facebook project page was also created and frequently updated. More than 100 posts were posted. In 2016 and 2017 the By-BM Project presented itself for several hundreds of visitors on MSCA European Researchers Night at Ulster Museum. The Fellow participated in trainings at Queen’s University Belfast, University of Hasselt and KU Leuven. The Fellow co-supervised 2 BSc diploma, trained MSc/PhD student and experts at QUB, University of Tartu, University of Tallinn, University of Hasselt, Technical University of Denmark and University of Pannonia.
"The primary scientific achievement of the project was the ""unusual behaviour"" of the fly as containing geopolymers. The alkali activation significantly increases the radon release rate of the formed matrix. The socio-economic impact and the broader societal implications of the outcomes are important because the obtained results will draw the attention on the matrix features responsible for the enhanced radon release rate. As a result of the inbuilt of that type of synthetic materials, their indoor radon contribution can increase the radiation dose.
The online version of the By-BM database makes possible the immediate information filtering for various parameters which can provide excellent opportunity to demonstrate the risk of specific materials for the industrial sector and policymakers. With the database, it is possible to identify the materials with elevated risk furthermore the inhomogeneity features of them.
All the project outcomes are published and open on the official website of the By-BM project. In addition to the research achievements, the most recent scientific background information is also collected with actual networking project deals with the natural radioactivity related issues mainly focusing on building materials. This website is a useful tool for experts and even students to get focused information.