Optimization of alkali-activated binders using natural minerals and industrial waste materials as precursor materials

Ibrahim N.A. Al-Duais, Shamsad Ahmad*, Mohammed M. Al-Osta, Mohammed Maslehuddin, Tawfik A. Saleh, Salah U. Al-Dulaijan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This paper presents the results of a study on developing optimized alkali-activated binders (AABs) utilizing selected natural minerals and industrial byproducts as precursor materials in addition to sodium hydroxide and sodium silicate as activators. Four selected precursor materials (natural pozzolana, limestone powder, red mud, and silicomanganese fume) were characterized in terms of their physical and chemical properties. The proportioning of the four precursor materials was optimized based on the results of flow, setting time, and compressive strength tests conducted on trial mortars. After reaching an optimal proportioning of the four precursor materials, the natural pozzolan was partially replaced by ordinary Portland cement (maximum 30% by wt.) to significantly enhance the properties of the AABs. The activator to precursor (A/P) ratio, sodium silicate to sodium hydroxide (NS/NH) ratio, sodium hydroxide (NH) molarity, and water to precursor (W/P) ratio, were varied from 0.3 to 0.6, 1 to 2.5, 8 to14 M, and 0.35 to 0.55, respectively. The influence of these activation parameters (at the optimally selected proportioning of precursor materials) on the physical and mechanical properties of AABs besides their mineral composition and morphology was investigated leading towards selecting the optimum AABs. The compressive strength at 28 days ranged from 28.5 to 32 MPa, 24.15 to 31.8 MPa, 24.2 to 33.1 MPa, 15.33 to 31.16 MPa, and 19.7 to 34.1 MPa, as A/P ratio, NS/NH ratio, NH molarity, W/P ratio, and curing method and duration were varied, respectively. XRD, FTIR, and SEM analyses of the AABs were conducted to validate the trends observed in the compressive strength results with variation in the activation parameters. The main phases detected by XRD included CSH, CASH, Mn-SH, KASH, and NASH. FTIR analysis showed bands that coincide with reported vibration and stretching of Si–O-M (M → Al, Si, or Mn) that are associated with geopolymerization, while SEM imaging showed dense microstructure with a homogenous distribution of polymerization gels that filled the microcracks and voids. Additionally, the effect of curing regimes (oven, steam and ambient-air curing) on the performance of AABs was also examined. The results of the present work enabled to identify the optimum proportioning of the selected precursor materials, optimum combination of A/P ratio, NS/NH ratio, NH molarity, and W/P ratio for producing the AABs with enhanced performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106230
JournalJournal of Building Engineering
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Alkali-activated binders
  • Industrial wastes
  • Mortar
  • Natural minerals
  • Optimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Building and Construction
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Mechanics of Materials


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