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Construction waste comminution with low energy microwaves for high value recycling

Project Description

Aim and hypothesis

To develop microwave technology for energy efficient comminution of concrete and tarmac construction waste by gaining a fundamental understanding of the interactions between the microwave process and physical characteristics (e.g. pore structure) and chemical properties of the of the construction waste materials.
Dielectric properties of concrete and tarmac are suitable for microwave heating. However, the physical and chemical differences of the two materials will pose different challenges for microwave heating including the release of gases with tarmac. The dielectric loss coupling of the materials facilitates their heating by electromagnetic waves during microwave heating. The moisture in the pores has higher dielectric properties than the other constituents which upon exposure to the electric field of microwave energy converts into heat via dipole interactions. The dipoles vibrate releasing heat through friction thus accelerating chemical reactions in the material. The internal heating mechanism of microwaves is fundamentally different from conventional methods which are relatively very energy inefficient.


SHU's microwave facility at AMP and an industry scale microwave machine provided by the external partner UVAMED will be used to conduct experiments on the comminution of waste concrete and tarmac materials. The magnitude and rate of temperature increase, microwave heating parameters such as power and material properties such as dielectric coefficients, volume, constituent phases, chemical composition will be evaluated and correlated to derive guidelines for microwave system design.
XRD, XRF, mercury intrusion porosimetry and surface analysis of aggregates will be used for the physical and chemical characterisation of both the original concrete/tarmac wastes and their comminuted aggregates and the matrix phases.
Thermocouples and thermal camera will be used to determine temperature distribution and microwave transmission intensity with depth.
Analytical models will be developed to predict penetration of radiative energy and the rates of heat and mass transfer, to optimise the sizing of MC equipment.
Numerical models in COMSOL Multiphysics will be developed to compare effectiveness and optimise equipment design.

Prepare compositions of concrete and tarmac with the recycled materials and determine performance characteristics relative to virgin materials.


Potential innovations likely to be developed in the post project period are as follows:
• Technique for comminution of concrete and tarmac with microwave energy
• Microwave systems for comminution of concrete, tarmac
• Microwave machine for road repair by applying the technology developed for comminution and melting of asphalt rubble(e.g. rapid pot-hole repair)
• High value use of recycled concrete, particularly the reconstituted cementitious material

Funding Notes

DTA3/COFUND participants will be employed for 36 months with a minimum salary of (approximately) £20,989 per annum. Tuition fees will waived for DTA3/COFUND participants who will also be able to access an annual DTA elective bursary to enable attendance at DTA training events and interact with colleagues across the Doctoral Training Alliance(s).
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 801604.

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