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Innovative Materials for Sustainability: From Laboratory to Applications

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Materials".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2024 | Viewed by 5157

Special Issue Editors

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Bari "Aldo Moro", 70121 Bari, Italy
Interests: applied mineralogy; artificial geo-materials; low-carbon binders; geopolymers; waste recovery; spectroscopy; chemical—physical characterizations
Department of Earth and Geo-environmental Sciences, University of Bari Aldo Moro, Via Edoardo Orabona, 4, 70126 Bari, Italy
Interests: applied mineralogy; crystallography; artificial materials (ceramics, mortars, plasters, pigments, geopolymers); clays; X-ray diffraction
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Roberta Occhipinti
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Science, University of Catania, 95129 Catania, Italy
Interests: geroresources; applied mineralogy and petrography; alkali-activated materials; recycling waste materials; eco-friendly materials; circular economy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent years, an interest growth for the production of innovative and sustainable materials, designed for a host range of applications (i.e., structural and non-structural building materials, environmental governance),  has been observed. The design of these material have to meet the challenge of the environmental footprint reduction through more sustainable technological processes, such as the alkali activation process, as well as the energy and virgin materials consumption reduction and waste generation, as required by the sustainable development goals (SDGs).In this context, becomes likewise essential re-thinking the waste values shifting the production line from linear to circular.

The purpose of the Special Issue "Innovative Materials for Sustainability: From Laboratory to Applications" is to provide a deeper knowledge in the field of sustainable materials in a perspective of circular economy, focusing on the actual opportunities of technology transfer from laboratory to real applications. The issue is addressed to scientists and specialists from different disciplines, interested (but not limited to) in the following topics:

  • Design and development of sustainable and innovative materials;
  • Alkali activated materials/geopolymers;
  • Waste management and valorisation;
  • Safeguard of no-renewable resources;
  • Environmental governance;
  • Building materials;
  • Technology transfer;
  • Innovative applications.

We look forward to receiving your contributions.

Dr. Marina Clausi
Dr. Daniela Pinto
Dr. Roberta Occhipinti
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • innovative materials
  • sustainable manufacturing
  • green technologies
  • renewable resources
  • energy safeguard
  • geopolymers
  • alkaline activation
  • waste
  • building materials
  • technology transfer

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

18 pages, 11651 KiB  
Article
Creating Mortars through the Alkaline Activation of Ceramic Waste from Construction: Case Studies on Their Applicability and Versatility in Conservation
Sustainability 2024, 16(3), 1085; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16031085 - 26 Jan 2024
Viewed by 427
Abstract
This paper aimed to investigate the possibility of using alkaline-based binders made from the industrial waste produced by ceramic tiles in the field of conservation and the restoration of monuments and archaeological heritage. Geopolymer mortars, which are environmentally sustainable products obtained by chemical [...] Read more.
This paper aimed to investigate the possibility of using alkaline-based binders made from the industrial waste produced by ceramic tiles in the field of conservation and the restoration of monuments and archaeological heritage. Geopolymer mortars, which are environmentally sustainable products obtained by chemical consolidation at room temperature, are studied for their versatility in applications as reintegration or bedding mortars and pre-cast elements, namely bricks, tiles or missing parts for archaeological pottery, as an alternative to traditional not sustainable products. Starting from a well-established formulation, the function of the product, meaning its technical characteristics and its workability, was optimized by changing the aggregates used, by adding a Ca-rich compound or by changing the liquid/solid ratio with the use of tap water. The possibility of tailoring the finishing of the obtained products was also evaluated. X-ray diffraction analysis showed the influence of adding the additive with the presence of newly formed phases, which positively affect the product’s workability. On the contrary, no important variations were observed with the increase in the water content of the same formulation, opening up the possibility of managing it according to the required fluidity of the final product. Good results were observed, jumping above the laboratory scale and overcoming criticalities linked to the variabilities on site and the higher volume of materials used for industrial processes. The present research also demonstrates that ceramic-based geopolymers are suitable for application in a large variety of cultural heritage projects and with different purposes. Therefore, the paper encourages the use of alkali-activated mortars for green restoration, specifically given the wide range of ceramic materials. Full article
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14 pages, 912 KiB  
Article
An Economic Analysis of the Use of Local Natural Waste: Volcanic Ash of Mt. Etna Volcano (Italy) for Geopolymer Production
Sustainability 2024, 16(2), 740; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16020740 - 15 Jan 2024
Viewed by 400
Abstract
This paper analyses the net social benefits deriving from the medium-scale production of geopolymers based on volcanic ash compared to traditional cementitious materials used in construction and restoration sectors. In contrast to the existing literature grounded on the physical and mechanical characterization of [...] Read more.
This paper analyses the net social benefits deriving from the medium-scale production of geopolymers based on volcanic ash compared to traditional cementitious materials used in construction and restoration sectors. In contrast to the existing literature grounded on the physical and mechanical characterization of geopolymers, our analysis considers two aspects: public finance savings from avoiding the disposal of volcanic ash in landfills and environmental benefits deriving from reduction in CO2 releases due to the production process at room temperature. Our case study focuses on the reuse of natural waste, namely the volcanic ash of the Mt. Etna volcano (Italy), whose disposal involves significant costs for society. Its use in the alkaline activation process avoids the exploitation of natural resources. Considering the huge amount of volcanic ash from Mt. Etna that falls on the urban areas of Eastern Sicily, the results show relevant economic benefits, in terms of both avoided costs and tax reductions for the citizens. Alongside these, significant environmental benefits are evidenced thanks to the release of up to 78% lower CO2 emissions by synthesised materials with volcanic ash than by traditional cementitious ones. Overall, the social cost savings compared to traditional materials is 0.339 EUR/kg for geopolymer. Full article
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20 pages, 7764 KiB  
Article
Alkali Activation of Clay and Water Potabilization Sludge Binary Blends: Influence of Composition and Curing Conditions
Sustainability 2023, 15(24), 16623; https://doi.org/10.3390/su152416623 - 07 Dec 2023
Viewed by 635
Abstract
This work aims to evaluate the compatibility and features of alkali-activated blends obtained by replacing carbonate-rich illitic clay with either untreated or heat-treated water potabilization sludge (WPS). The experimental setting was created looking towards producing environmentally friendly solutions such as precursors that are [...] Read more.
This work aims to evaluate the compatibility and features of alkali-activated blends obtained by replacing carbonate-rich illitic clay with either untreated or heat-treated water potabilization sludge (WPS). The experimental setting was created looking towards producing environmentally friendly solutions such as precursors that are sourced from the same territory, room-temperature curing in realistic environmental conditions, and activation exclusively with sodium hydroxide (NaOH) solutions. A multi-analytical characterization of the blends using X-ray powder diffraction (XRPD), an optical microscope (OM), a scanning electron microscope (SEM) equipped with an energy dispersive spectrometer (EDX), and a mechanical test demonstrated that up 75% of calcinated sludge and 25% of uncalcinated sludge could be successfully incorporated into the clay-based blends, offering a valuable alternative to landfill disposal of WPS. The matrices’ features were affected both by the amount of sludge in the blends and by the environmental conditions curing. since mineralogical investigations, OM and SEM observations showed the formation of secondary crystalline phases, mainly zeolitesin addition to amorphous gel. The mechanical strength results reached values between ~3 and 9 MPa, suggesting the possible use of the investigated alkali-activated blends for the formulation of precast building materials. Furthermore, to assure the replication of these alkali-activated blends, uncontrolled (T °C and RH%) curing does not appear to be the most appropriate solution. The study demonstrated that WPS, traditionally destined for landfill, could be a resource for the production of alkaline-activated materials by partially replacing unrenewable raw materials. thus resulting in the creation of eco-sustainable and economic processes as WPSare a widely and locally available industrial byproduct. However, a better control of mix designs and curing conditions is necessary for the upscaling of the here investigated blends. Full article
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13 pages, 3975 KiB  
Article
Evaluation of Kunkur Fines for Utilization in the Production of Ternary Blended Cements
Sustainability 2023, 15(23), 16453; https://doi.org/10.3390/su152316453 - 30 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1036
Abstract
Ternary blended cements, such as limestone calcined clay cement (LC3), represent a type of strategic binder for the mitigation of environmental impacts associated with cement production. These are estimated to reduce CO2 emissions by about 40% compared to ordinary Portland [...] Read more.
Ternary blended cements, such as limestone calcined clay cement (LC3), represent a type of strategic binder for the mitigation of environmental impacts associated with cement production. These are estimated to reduce CO2 emissions by about 40% compared to ordinary Portland cement (OPC). In this paper, we explore the possibility of producing such ternary blends by utilizing secondary raw materials that may be locally available. Specifically, the primary limestone that is commonly used in LC3 is herein substituted with quarry dust obtained by sourcing “kunkur”, a carbonate-rich sedimentary rock (also known as caliche) that can be locally utilized for the production of ordinary OPC clinker. To optimize the blending proportions of ternary cement consisting of OPC, calcined clay, and kunkur fines, a “design of experiment” (DoE) approach was implemented with the goal of exploring the possibility of reducing the amount of the OPC fraction to values lower than 50%. The properties of the formulated blends were assessed by a combination of techniques that comprise mechanical strength testing, XRD time-dependent quantitative phase analysis, and SEM–EDS microstructural and microchemical analyses. The results suggest that ternary blended cement based on kunkur fines forms hydration products, such as hemicarboaluminates, which are also observed in LC3. This shows that such waste materials can potentially be used in sustainable cement blends; however, the presence of kaolinite in the kunkur fines seems to affect their strength development when compared to both OPC and conventional LC3. Full article
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15 pages, 6075 KiB  
Article
Development of Green Leather Alternative from Natural Rubber and Pineapple Leaf Fiber
Sustainability 2023, 15(21), 15400; https://doi.org/10.3390/su152115400 - 28 Oct 2023
Viewed by 2147
Abstract
In the present research, a plant-based leather substitute material or leather alternative was developed from natural rubber (NR) and pineapple leaf fiber (PALF) using a simple process. Pineapple leaf fiber was extracted from waste pineapple leaves using a mechanical method. Untreated PALF (UPALF) [...] Read more.
In the present research, a plant-based leather substitute material or leather alternative was developed from natural rubber (NR) and pineapple leaf fiber (PALF) using a simple process. Pineapple leaf fiber was extracted from waste pineapple leaves using a mechanical method. Untreated PALF (UPALF) and sodium hydroxide-treated PALF (TPALF) were then formed into non-woven sheets using a paper making process. PALF non-woven sheets were then coated with compounded natural rubber latex at three different NR/PALF ratios, i.e., 60/40, 50/50, and 40/60. Epoxidized natural rubber with an epoxidation level of 10% (ENR) was used as an adhesion promoter, and its content was varied at 5, 10, and 15% by weight of the total rubber. The obtained leathers were characterized in terms of tensile properties, tear strength, and hardness. The internal structure of the leathers was observed with a scanning electron microscope. Comparison of these properties was made against those reported in the literature. It was found that the leather with NR/PALF equal to 50/50 was the most satisfactory; that prepared from TPALF was softer and had greater extension at break. With the addition of ENR at 5%, the stress-strain curve of each respective leather increased significantly, and as the amount of ENR was increased to 10 and 15%, the stresses at corresponding strains dropped to lower values but remained higher than that without ENR. PALF leather prepared in this study has comparable or better properties than other alternative leathers reported in the literature and is much stronger than that made from mushrooms. Thus, this type of leather alternative offers unique characteristics of being bio-based and having a lower carbon footprint. Full article
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