A new student center at Clarkson U. incorporates concrete blocks made in part with a glass powder that is a byproduct of a local company’s manufacturing process. (Clarkson U. image)
A Clarkson University professor’s search for ways to recycle a local industrial byproduct led him to create extra-durable concrete blocks that the university is using in its new student center, according to the Watertown Daily Times.
Clarkson, in Potsdam, N.Y., is located near a Potters Industries Inc. factory that makes glass products for industrial uses—and that creates some 8,000 tons of fine glass powder each year as a byproduct of its manufacturing processes. A Clarkson professor of civil and environmental engineering, Narayanan Neithalath, began investigating possible uses for the powder in 2006, and discovered that it could be substituted for up to 20 percent of the portland cement in recipes for concrete, which is about 15 to 25 percent portland cement.
Portland cement is also the most expensive and least sustainable ingredient in concrete. It is made by heating limestone and other materials to very high temperatures in a kiln and then grinding up the resulting clinker. Using the glass powder as a concrete component not only recycles a byproduct but means that less limestone must be excavated and heated. Concrete made with the glass powder is also more durable, Professor Neithalath found. He worked with two graduate students and two undergraduates on the project.
He tested his concrete-block recipe at Woodruff Block, another Potsdam company. Using the formula, Woodruff eventually produced about 7,500 concrete blocks for the 56,000-square-foot student center, which is due to open in August.