great majority of the electricity we use in America comes from coal-fired power plants. During this process, coal is ground into a fine powder and burned in a boiler at very high temperatures. This heat produces steam, which spins a turbine to produce electricity. The fine powder that is a byproduct of burning coal is known as fly ash.
Fly ash is used as prime material in many cement-based products to improve quality and durability. It can be used in cast in placed concrete, concrete block, and brick. For years, it was simply disposed into landfill sites or large ponds. Instead of dumping this byproduct, companies now utilize it as a construction material.
Why is fly ash useful?
There are many benefits to the use of fly ash. As a supplemental cementitious material (SCM), it is a cost-effective substitute in many markets, for it replaces some of the cement at a reduced cost. It produces an improved concrete performance that creates a denser concrete with enhanced workability and finishable surface. Its qualities improve the ability to pump concrete over long distances and increase cohesion to reduce segregation where aggregates sink to the bottom of the forms. As an SCM, it reduces permeability of water penetrating into the concrete and it helps mitigate and prevent alkali/silica reactivity and sulfates in the soils from attacking and reducing the life span of the concrete.
As previously mentioned, fly ash is also environmentally friendly, for the material from power plants is being repurposed. This helps keep cement makers from needing to mine new raw materials. It reduces CO2 emissions by reducing the demand for Portland cement. For every ton of cement replaced with fly ash, nearly one ton of CO2 is kept from entering the atmosphere.
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