Effects of activator type/concentration and curing temperature on alkali-activated binder based on copper mine tailings

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This article investigates the effects of activator type/concentration and curing temperature on alkaliactivated binder based on copper mine tailings (MT). Different alkaline activators including sodium hydroxide (NaOH), sodium silicate (SS), and sodium aluminate (SA) at different compositions and concentrations were used and four different curing temperatures, 60, 75, 90, and 120 °C, were considered. Scanning electron microscopy/energydispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDX), and X-ray diffraction (XRD) were conducted to investigate the effect of these factors on the unconfined compressive strength (UCS), microstructure, and phase composition of the binder. The results indicate that NaOH concentration and curing temperature are two important factors that affect the UCS and micro-structural properties of the alkali-activated MT binder. The optimum curing temperature, i.e., the curing temperature at the maximum UCS, depends on the NaOH concentration, lower optimum curing temperature at smaller NaOH concentration. Addition of aqueous SS to the NaOH solution can lead to strength improvement, with the highest UCS obtained at a SiO2/Na2O ratio of 1.0-1.26. Addition of powder SA to the NaOH solution profoundly delays the setting at 60 °C but improves the UCS at 90 °C. The SEM/EDX results show highly heterogeneous microstructure for the alkali-activated MT binder as evidenced by the variable Si/Al ratios in different phases. The XRD patterns indicate a newly formed crystalline phase, zeolite, in the 90 °C-cured specimens. The results of this study provide useful information for recycling and utilization of copper MT as construction material through the geopolymerization technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5933-5945
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Materials Science
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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