Researchers close to creating building material from fly ash

They could potentially transform mountains of ash from burnt coal, called fly ash, into useful cost effective building materials.

Surface coal mine transportation. Picture: Supplied.

CAPE TOWN - Researchers say they are close to being able to create cost effective building material from a coal power by-product.

The work by researchers and students from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) started in 2003.

It could potentially transform mountains of ash from burnt coal, called fly ash, into useful materials that can be used in the building sector.

In 2009, Eskom reported about 37 million tonnes of fly ash was generated at power stations across South Africa.

UWC Professor Leslie Petrik says the figure is possibly even greater now.

Petrik leads the Environmental and Nano Science Research Group that's been studying the potential of fly ash.

“Coal ash is classified as a hazardous waste and we’re trying to find ways to actually turn it into building materials or into other useful materials.”

Students from UWC and CPUT are working on the fly ash project, which has been funded by various departments and agencies including the Water Research Commission, Sasol, Coaltech, Technology Innovation Agency and Eskom.

(Edited by Zinhle Nkosi)