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Boosting Portland cement-free composite performance via alkali-activation and reinforcement with pre-treated functionalised wheat straw

Chougan, Mehdi; Ghaffar, Seyed Hamidreza; Sikora, Pawel; Mijowska, Ewa; Kukułka, Wojciech; Stephan, Dietmar

Utilising wheat straw reinforced OPC-free composites in the construction industry requires efficient, eco-friendly pre-treatment coupled with surface functionalisation methods to turn it into a high-performance material. Herein, alkali-activated material (AAM) was used as an OPC-free matrix, while eco-friendly hybrid pre-treatment and surface functionalisations were applied to mitigate the surface quality deficiencies of wheat straw and improve its compatibility with low-carbon binders. Wheat straw particles were subjected to a mild physical pre-treatment (hot-water followed by steam) and surface functionalisation using attapulgite nanoclay and graphene nanoplatelets to improve their capacity as an effective reinforcing material in AAM. Comprehensive characterisation verified successful pre-treatment and surface functionalisation, which led to the improved interfacial bond between wheat straw and AAM. The best results were obtained for the AAM samples reinforced with pre-treated straw that was functionalised with attapulgite nanoclay (i.e., H+S-AT), in which the volume of permeable voids decreased by 18%, while compressive and flexural strength at 90 d increased by 41% and 27%, respectively, compared to the control sample. However, the effect on the thermal properties of the resulted composites was not significant.
Published in: Industrial Crops and Products, 10.1016/j.indcrop.2022.114648, Elsevier