Tech Transfer eNews Blog

U of Arizona start-up repurposes hazardous power plant waste to produce advanced concrete

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 12th, 2017

A University of Arizona (UA) start-up is turning potentially hazardous waste from power plants into a high-quality building material.

Co-launched by UA professor Jinhong Zhang, Acrete is based on a novel formula to repurpose a byproduct of coal-burning power generation known as fly ash to create a unique kind of concrete.

Fly ash, which is commonly stored in ground basins or landfills where it can potentially contaminate groundwater, carries toxins such as arsenic and heavy metals that can be dangerous if ingested. While fly ash has been used partially in concrete since the 1930s, Zhang and his team at Acrete have developed a formula that creates a durable material made almost entirely of fly ash.

“That’s what makes it so different,” says Abraham Jalbout, an entrepreneur who joined Zhang to launch Acrete. “Up to now, people have used [fly ash] as an additive to increase strength of the concrete, but this is the only solution that has 100 percent utilization of this.”

Acrete’s product is lighter, stronger and less expensive to produce compared to concrete. At the same time, the innovation keeps around three times as much fly ash from entering the waste stream, according to Jalbout.

The start-up is working with Tech Launch Arizona (TLA), the tech transfer arm of UA, to bring the new production method to market, with UA receiving royalties from Acrete’s sales. The company has filed for three international patents and is currently seeking a manufacturer as well as wholesale and retail distributors.

Eventually, Acrete intends to expand the technology to repurpose other industrial byproducts such as mine tailings. Jalbout says the start-up’s immediate goal is to have the product ready for manufacturing and distribution by this summer.


Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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