Geopolymer science has had a big rush in development and study in the last few years, and nowadays, many products exist and have a proven success track record; still, few people know this fantastic technology.
Looking at the number of research published and patents released recently, we can easily forecast an extensive use of Geopolymers shortly, either for building sector or industrial appliance.
Unfortunately, some product names recall Geopolymer science on the market but have nothing to share with it. Other producers prefer to hide the Geopolymer identity to preserve the "secret".
Moreover, scientists and researchers sometimes confuse Geopolymer terminology and associate it with other, very different technologies, such as alkali-activated materials.
So, what are geopolymers ?
The first idea that comes to mind for people dealing with concrete and mortars is that geopolymers replace Portland cement. This is partially correct and a limiting idea that leads to some product design and application mistakes.
According to French scientist Joseph Davidovits, who coined the term "Geopolymer", geopolymers are ceramic-like inorganic polymers produced at low temperatures.
What does it mean? First of all, they are polymers, like plastics. Approaching them from a cement expert or ceramist point of view is misleading, if not downright wrong. Inorganic means they consist of chains of mineral molecules, so, for example, geopolymer products do not burn.
You can obtain geopolymer mortars, resins, concretes, paints, composite fibre-reinforced materials, dental cement, and who knows what else from geopolymer chemistry.
From the past, the technology of the sustainable future.
Geopolymer chemistry was known in Antiquity and used to produce statues, manufactured goods, ceramics and buildings.
Researchers from the Geopolymer Institute found out that some ancient Roman concrete technology is indeed geopolymer mortar or concrete, and even the pyramids were built by casting a geopolymer product rather than moving stone blocks.
It sounds incredible and definitely not aligned with what we were thinking so far; anyway, more and more scientists are supporting this thesis nowadays.
Sustainability above all: Compared to Portland cement, geopolymers concretes, cement and mortars can save up to 80% CO2 emission. Also, durability is far superior: the emissions spent creating a geopolymer spread over many more years, pushing sustainability to the next level.
Fire and thermal shock behaviour: Geopolymers can withstand incredible thermal shocks without burning or releasing vapour or fumes. Heat resistance is more significant than Portland cement, with some products reaching over 1250 °C.
Geopolymers are resistant to any chemicals that are usually harmful to organic polymers. The resistance to sulphuric acid, chloride acid and basic substances is far superior to any Portland cement.
Mechanical resistance is comparable to the higher class of Portland cement mortars (class R4, following the norms of the European community). Geopolymers have the same strength and endurance than natural rock.
What geopolymers can do for the industry and building sector?
Here at Ecobeton, we developed the project Geoteria to overcome some limits of classical resins and mortars in harsh environments.
Organic resins have problems with high temperatures; when heated over 300°C - 400°C, they release toxic vapours and odours, if not even burn.
Cement mortars, even the refractory ones, do not resist thermal shock. Damage is guaranteed if a drop of liquid steel falls on a concrete floor.
Both resins and cements have unfinished business with the environment. Switching to a far more sustainable technology could be the first step to improving your business.
After years of study and collaboration with geopolymer scientists, we recently released a class of geopolymer resins and mortars.