Abstract

An experimental investigation was conducted on the alkali activation of a kaolinitic clay using an alkaline mixture composed of hydrated lime (Ca(OH)2) and sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) solution. The Ca(OH)2/Na2CO3 alkaline mixture was developed to overcome the high cost and chemical aggression associated with classical alkaline solutions. The mineralogical composition and microstructure of the alkaline mixture and alkali-activation products were studied using X-ray diffraction, attenuated total reflectance-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, thermogravimetric analysis and energy-dispersive X-ray-scanning electron microscopy techniques. Pirssonite (Na2Ca(CO3)2·2H2O), calcite (CaCO3), and sodium hydroxide (NaOH) formed as a result of mixing of Ca(OH)2 with Na2CO3. The alkali activation of natural clay with the Ca(OH)2/Na2CO3 alkaline mixture produced a binding agent identified as hydroxysodalite phase (Na8Al6Si6O24(OH)2·4H2O) when pure kaolinite was used, and cancrinite carbonate (Na6Ca1.5[Al6Si6O24](CO3)1.5·1.8H2O) when kaolinitic clay with high a calcite content was used. The mechanical strength of the binder developed was evaluated on cylindrical specimens containing granite waste as a filler material under dry and soaked conditions. The classical NaOH activator was used for comparison. For specimens produced using a Ca(OH)2/Na2CO3 mixture as the alkaline activator, the recorded strength value was 21 MPa which was 35% less than that achieved by the classical NaOH solution. Durability tests on samples soaked in water for 24 h showed a reduction in strength from 34 to 22 MPa for specimens prepared with NaOH solution, and from 21 to 11 MPa for the specimens prepared with a Ca(OH)2/Na2CO3 alkaline mixture.

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