Treatment of end-of-life concrete in an innovative heating-air classification system for circular cement-based products

J. Moreno-Juez*, Inigo J. Vegas, Abraham T. Gebremariam, V. García-Cortes, F. Di Maio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
102 Downloads (Pure)


A stronger commitment towards Green Building and circular economy, in response to environmental concerns and economic trends, is evident in modern industrial cement and concrete production processes. The critical demand for an overall reduction in the environmental impact of the construction sector can be met through the consumption of high-grade supplementary raw materials. Advanced solutions are under development in current research activities that will be capable of up-cycling larger quantities of valuable raw materials from the fine fractions of End-of-Life (EoL) concrete waste. New technology, in particular the Heating-Air classification System (HAS), simultaneously applies a combination of heating and separation processes within a fluidized bed-like chamber under controlled temperatures (±600 °C) and treatment times (25–40 s). In that process, moisture and contaminants are removed from the EoL fine concrete aggregates (0–4 mm), yielding improved fine fractions, and ultrafine recycled concrete particles (<0.125 mm), consisting mainly of hydrated cement, thereby adding value to finer EoL concrete fractions. In this study, two types of ultrafine recycled concrete (either siliceous or limestone EoL concrete waste) are treated in a pilot HAS technology for their conversion into Supplementary Cementitious Material (SCM). The physico-chemical effect of the ultrafine recycled concrete particles and their potential use as SCM in new cement-based products is assessed by employing substitutions of up to 10% of the conventional binder. The environmental viability of their use as SCM is then evaluated in a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The results demonstrated accelerated hydration kinetics of the mortars that incorporated these SCMs at early ages and higher mechanical strengths at all curing ages. Optimal substitutions were established at 5%. The results suggested that the overall environmental impact could be reduced by up to 5% when employing the ultrafine recycled concrete particles as SCM in circular cement-based products, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 41 kg CO2 eq./ton of cement (i.e. 80 million tons CO2 eq./year). Finally, the environmental impacts were reduced even further by running the HAS on biofuel rather than fossil fuel.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121515
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Circular cement-based products
  • Concrete recycling technologies
  • EoL concrete recycling
  • LCA
  • Recovered SCM
  • Reduction of greenhouse gases


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