The Catholic University of America

Aug. 13, 2009

CUA to Develop Environmentally Friendly Cement-Like Material for Florida Company

  Weiliang Gong and Ian Pegg with samples of the environmentally friendly cement they invented.

Iveron Materials of Orlando, Fla., has entered into a $586,000 one-year agreement with Catholic University's Vitreous State Laboratory (VSL) to fund the research and development of a new type of cement-like material whose manufacture does not generate greenhouse gas emissions. The cement is environmentally friendly in another way, since its main ingredient is fly ash, a waste product of coal-fired power plants.

The material, which is the subject of pending patent applications, was invented by VSL scientists Weiliang Gong and Werner Lutze and VSL Director and physics professor Ian Pegg. It is stronger, more corrosion-resistant, and much more heat-resistant than normal Portland cement, according to Gong.

Iveron Materials, a startup company that is planning to commercialize the material, has also entered into a memorandum of understanding to finalize a licensing agreement with Catholic University that will include the payment of royalties from the proceeds of eventual sales of the new cement.

"We are very excited about the prospects for this material and the opportunity to work closely with Catholic University and VSL in its development and commercialization," said Cristian Toma, president of Iveron Materials.

The key ingredient in the cement and concrete materials we see all around us is "ordinary Portland cement" or OPC. The manufacture of OPC, which takes place in high-temperature kilns, is responsible for creating up to 10 percent of the world's industrial carbon dioxide emissions, according to Iveron. The manufacture of one ton of OPC generates about one ton of carbon dioxide. Most scientists believe that such emissions contribute to global warming. VSL's cement not only uses no OPC at all, it also beneficially uses large amounts of fly ash.

A growing percentage of U.S. building construction is "green"- i.e., it is carried out with environmentally friendly materials - and some of the early interest in VSL's cement has come from builders doing such projects.

"Once our cement is proven effective in such construction, other builders will want to use it as well," predicts Toma. "Also, its superior engineering and durability properties make it ideal for a range of environmental applications, including surface capping and lining of landfills, various water control structures, and heap leach pads, tailing liners, and dams in the mining and metallurgical industries."

Using fly ash also recycles a waste material and an abundant pollutant. The annual world production of fly ash exceeds 850 million tons, more than 65 percent of which is disposed of in landfills. While some fly ash is used in conventional OPC-based cements and concretes, much of it is simply stored in surface "impoundments" or ponds. These heaps of fly ash must be kept wet to prevent the ash from blowing away, with the resulting runoff often polluting lakes and rivers.

The main task during the current development phase is to engineer the cement for different construction applications, test it to show that it meets national quality standards and requirements, and design its manufacture to keep the cement as cost competitive as possible while maintaining its performance.

This innovative product was derived quite naturally from VSL's core expertise in glass science and technology. About 80 percent of typical fly ash is composed of microscopic glass beads of less than one-tenth of a millimeter in diameter, about the diameter of a human hair. These beads form from minerals in coal that melt during combustion. Understanding how this glassy material reacts in aqueous solutions led VSL to realize its desirable properties and to formulate the new cement. "It was essentially the same process involved in understanding the leaching process of glasses that VSL develops for nuclear waste disposal," explains Pegg.

"Catholic University is pleased to be working with Iveron Materials in the development and commercialization of this environmentally friendly material," says CUA Provost James Brennan. "This is another example of the diversification of VSL's core technological expertise into new applications."

MEDIA: For more information, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in Catholic University's Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.