Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Lawrence L. Sutter


An increased consideration of sustainability throughout society has resulted in a surge of research investigating sustainable alternatives to existing construction materials. A new binder system, called a geopolymer, is being investigated to supplement ordinary portland cement (OPC) concrete, which has come under scrutiny because of the CO2 emissions inherent in its production.

Geopolymers are produced from the alkali activation of a powdered aluminosilicate source by an alkaline solution, which results in a dense three-dimensional matrix of tetrahedrally linked aluminosilicates. Geopolymers have shown great potential as a building construction material, offering similar mechanical and durability properties to OPC. Additionally, geopolymers have the added value of a considerably smaller carbon footprint than OPC.

This research considered the compressive strength, microstructure and composition of geopolymers made from two types of waste glass with varying aluminum contents. Waste glass shows great potential for mainstream use in geopolymers due to its chemical and physical homogeneity as well as its high content of amorphous silica, which could eliminate the need for sodium silicate. However, the lack of aluminum is thought to negatively affect the mechanical performance and alkali stability of the geopolymer system.

Mortars were designed using various combinations of glass and metakaolin or fly ash to supplement the aluminum in the system. Mortar made from the high-Al glass (12% Al2O3) reached over 10,000 psi at six months. Mortar made from the low-Al glass (<1% Al2O3) did not perform as well and remained sticky even after several weeks of curing, most likely due to the lack of Al which is believed to cause hardening in geopolymers. A moderate metakaolin replacement (25-38% by mass) was found to positively affect the compressive strength of mortars made with either type of glass.

Though the microstructure of the mortar was quite indicative of mechanical performance, composition was also found to be important. The initial stoichiometry of the bulk mixture was maintained fairly closely, especially in mixtures made with fine glass. This research has shown that glass has great potential for use in geopolymers, when care is given to consider the compositional and physical properties of the glass in mixture design.