Construction and Building

Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 265–274

MATERIALS
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Density and flexural strength of phosphogypsum–polymer composites
C.J.R. Verbeek
a

a,*

, B.J.G.W. du Plessis

b

Department of Materials and Process Engineering, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton, New Zealand b Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Pretoria, Lynwood Road, Pretoria, 0002, South Africa Received 31 August 2003; received in revised form 20 July 2004; accepted 21 July 2004 Available online 8 September 2004

Abstract The objective of this research was to characterize the mechanical properties of phosphogypsum–polymer composites as affected by the amount of resin, the amount of vermiculite and the particle size distribution of the vermiculite. Using 50% resin and a high ratio of coarse to fine particles resulted in the lowest density and highest strength composites. Better packing of particles in the composite improves the strength of the composite, but increases its density. It was found that the use of CaSO4 Á 1 H O is inefficient in 2 2 these composites and it yielded consistently lower strengths than its hydrated phosphogypsum counterpart. It was concluded that only 10% resin can be tolerated in the hydrated CaSO4 Á 1 H O matrix because the resin interferes with the curing. The phosphogyp2 2 sum–polymer composites, produced in this study, had flexural strengths above those of standard hydrated gypsum products and had slightly lower densities. Taking into account the expense of converting and cleaning the phosphogypsum to the hemi-hydrate form, this result is therefore positive in light of producing cheap light weight alternative gypsum-based building products. Ó 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: A: Particle-reinforced composites; Structural materials; Polymer–matrix composites; B: Strength

1. Introduction The building industry utilizes a lot of materials in large buildings as well as for smaller constructions, such as houses. In these projects the need for flame resistant, light weight and high strength materials is common. Applications of such materials range from wall panels, door skins and door cores to roof tiles and ceiling boards. A vast variety of conventional materials exist, each with unique applications and properties. These would include wood, wood composites and various gypsum products. As we strive towards a cleaner environment, we are continuously faced with the challenge to re-use materials as well as converting waste materials into more useful materials [1]. Alternative materials

*

Corresponding author. Tel.: +64 7 838 4947; fax: +64 7 8384835. E-mail address: jverbeek@waikato.ac.nz (C.J.R. Verbeek).

may include polymer composites of waste materials such as magnetite, phlogopite, vermiculite (not a waste, but cheap) and calcium phosphate di-hydrate [1–4]. These materials are successful because they can be manufactured to be lightweight as well as relatively strong, while utilizing waste materials from other industries. Vast quantities of phosphogypsum are available as a by-product from the phosphate fertilizer industry. Phosphogypsum is in the di-hydrate form and is contaminated with phosphoric acid and some other substances. It is a costly process to clean-up this gypsum and to calcine the di-hydrate to the hemi-hydrate form. The hemi-hydrate form is used in known products such as Plaster of Paris. It has been shown that some thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers can be used as binder for various inorganic, particulate materials, such as minerals [5–7]. Costly calcining of phosphogypsum can therefore be avoided by this alternative binding mechanism. The only drawback, using phosphogypsum is problems associated with radioactivity. This causes

0950-0618/$ - see front matter Ó 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2004.07.011

du Plessis / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 265–274 harmful radon emissions and therefore precludes indoor use of phosphogypsum in counties like the United States. four materials were selected for their specific properties and intended contribution to the properties of the final composite. amount of vermiculite and the particle size distribution of the vermiculite. The vermiculite was supplied at 300 lm (coarse particles) and 100 lm (fine particles). B. A vast amount of literature describes the factors that influence the behaviour of particulate filled polymer composites [3. vermiculite (Phalaborwa. The most important factors are the amount of binder. water is also needed for hydration and was included as an additional variable in those experiments. These materials would therefore target outdoor or well ventilated applications. The amount of resin reported always includes the RESOL and the appropriate amount of catalyst. South Africa. Thermosetting polymers are most attractive for use in such composites for their ease of processing with the gypsum and vermiculite. Sample preparation and testing All samples were prepared by homogenising gypsum/ vermiculite mixtures in a high-speed mixer.) and commercially available calcium phosphate hemi-hydrate. the surface properties of the inorganic particles and the particle size or aspect ratio thereof. The designs for these two experiments are shown in Tables 2 and 3. The density of phosphogypsum is often too high for building applications and it has a relatively low flexural strength [9]. At room temperature. but this can be addressed by judicious use of flame retardant additives. cheaper alternatives may be considered and studies have shown that cheaper phenol formaldehyde resins can be manufactured from waste materials [10]. 1.G. These were: phosphogypsum (obtained from Foskor LtdÕs mining operation in Phalaborwa. Preliminary experiments were performed to establish the effect of binary mixtures of the resin. The layers are weakly bound and can therefore be exfoliated. Fig. To overcome this. supplied by Mandoval Ltd. Summary of experimental layout. South Africa). 3 CaSO4 • ½H2O 2 7 5 6 4 CaSO4 • 2H2O No binder Fig. Phenol can also be substituted by cashew-nut-shell oil. . Factors not considered in this study include the flammability of the material.  the ratio coarse to fine vermiculite particles (dp). Verbeek. This mixture was then homogenised in a planar mixer.8]. gypsum and vermiculite. commercial calcium sulphate hemi-hydrate and phosphogypsum were used in separate experiments. 2. Experiments 6 and 7 were designed to investigate the combined effect of the resin. phenol formaldehyde resin (commercial resol and activator supplied by HA Falchem.1. For Experiment 6 phosphogypsum was used. exfoliated vermiculite can be used to lower the density of the composite. which will render the composites more water resistant.W. consisting of several crystal layers. after which the appropriate amount of resin. The objectives of this study are:  to produce phosphogypsum–polymer composites of similar strength to that of cured Plaster of Paris. When hemi-hydrate gypsum is used. as affected by the amount of resin.4. Vermiculite is a siliceous mineral. Although the cost of polymers is high.J. but with lower density and  to characterize the mechanical properties of these composites. For both these experiments a fractional factorial experiment was designed according to the Taguchi method [12]. resulting in a very low density product. Materials and methods In accordance to the set objectives. 1 2. phenol–formaldehyde cures with in three minutes. using a L8 orthogonal array. Factors that can affect the strength of the phosphogypsum composite are:  the percentage resin used (%R). whereas for Experiment 7 calcium sulphate hemi-hydrate was used. For comparative purposes. These are numbered Experiments 1–5 and are listed in Table 1. which makes it an attractive binder in this study.J.R.266 C. 1 illustrates the various experiments performed to characterise the influence of these factors on the composite performance. and  the ratio gypsum to vermiculite in the composite (GV). South Africa [11]). gypsum and vermiculite. respectively. catalyst and water were added.

Gypsum:H2O 1:0.G. # 1. B.62 Samples of 400 g each were then compressed in a 150 mm · 200 mm mould at a standard pressure of 1 MPa.3 2.8 1:0.28 Exp # 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 2 2 2 2 1 1 3 1 2 1 2 2 1 2 1 Column 4 1 2 2 1 2 1 1 2 Interaction: Column 1 x 3 N/A 5 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 2 6 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 7 1 2 2 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Results Density Strength 3 (kg/m ) (MPa) 977 2.C.3 4.4 3.1 5.6 10 30 50 10 30 50 25 50 25 50 Phosphogypsum.R.J.2 5.W. du Plessis / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 265–274 Table 1 Preliminary experiments Exp.3 5.2 1. All four-point bending tests were performed according to ASTM D790-81.34 1221 2.31 879 1.00* 1023 2.86 1056 5.1 4.71 822 1.2 3.00 885 0.3 1:3 1:3 3:1 3:1 75 50 75 50 1:0.04 737 1. Without resin.6 1:0.2 4.1 1. Samples of 30 mm · 150 mm were then cut from these sheets for flexural testing.8 1 : 0.1 3.09 1294 4.99 1088 2. Verbeek. The resin is primarily used as binder for the particulate vermiculite and gypsum and it can therefore be suspected that it will influence the strength of the composites to a large extent.4 * 267 % Resin % Gypsum 100 100 100 25 50 25 50 Coarse: fine vermiculite %Verm.04 807 2. no mechanical properties can be observed . Composites were left to cure at room temperature for 24 h. however. 3.68 833 2. Results and discussion Each of the selected variables affects the performance of the composite differently.42 986 3. with a crosshead speed of 10 mm/min.J.3 5.6 1:3 1:3 3:1 3:1 50 75 50 Table 2 L8 orthogonal array [1] for phosphogypsum composites Level 2 Table 3 L8 orthogonal array [1] for phosphogypsum composites Level 2 1 : 0.1 2.3 2.83 751 0. using a Lloyd instrument LRX-Plus.2 2.19 864 0. 90 70 50 90* 70* 50* * 1:0.6 50% 3:1 50% 3:1 3:2 Level 1 25% 1:3 Level 1 25% 1:3 N/A N/A N/A 4:1 3:2 N/A N/A Ratio Coarse to fine vermiculite Ratio Coarse to fine vermiculite Ratio gypsum to vermiculite CaSO4·½H2O : H 2O Ratio gypsum to vermiculite Variable description Variable description 4:1 Interaction: Column 1 x 2 Interaction: Column 2 x 3 Interaction: Column 1 x 2 Interaction: Column 2 x 3 Interaction: Column 1 x 3 % Resin * Composite broke under own weight % Resin Exp # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 2 2 2 2 1 1 Column 3 4 1 2 2 1 2 1 1 2 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 2 5 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 6 1 2 2 1 1 2 2 1 Results Density Strength (kg/m3) (MPa) 1000 0.

5 0 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 % Resin (%R) Ratio coarse to fine vermiculite (dp) Ratio gypsum to vermiculite (GV) interaction %R x dp interaction dp x GV interaction %R x GV Parameter level Fig.J. at the same time. which should be as low as possible and (b) flexural strength. Main and interaction effects of parameters tested with respect to flexural strength of phosphogypsum–polymer composites. 3. .5 2 1. du Plessis / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 265–274 due to the absence of a continuous structure in the particulate phosphogypsum.J. Verbeek. decrease the flexural strength. Exfoliated vermiculite will reduce the density of the composite. 2. Each factor will be evaluated in terms of its main effect on the materials: (a) density. This is perceived as a positive effect 1200 1100 Density (Kg/m3) 1000 900 800 700 600 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 % Resin (%R) Ratio coarse to fine vermiculite (dp) Ratio gypsum to vermiculite (GV) interaction %R x dp interaction dp x GV interaction %R x GV Parameter and level Fig. the main effect of the percentage resin indicates that an increase in resin content resulted in a decrease in density. 2 and 3. In Table 5 it can also be seen that the ratio of gypsum to vermiculite did not contribute significantly to the flexural strength of the material.1. the hydration process will yield a continuous structure. The interaction and main effects are shown in Figs. Main and interaction effects of parameters tested with respect to density of phosphogypsum–polymer composites. in which case the resin could act as a strength enhancement. revealed that all the main parameters contributed significantly to the density of the composite and that the interaction between the particle size distribution and the gypsum to vermiculite ratio is negligible. 2.W. are presented in Table 2. If calcium sulphate hemi-hydrate is used.G. B. 3.268 C.1. The analysis of variance (ANOVA). the extent to which the strength is reduced may depend on the particle size distribution of the vermiculite. Percentage resin In Fig. shown in Table 4. but its interaction with the amount of resin did. Phosphogypsum–polymer composites The specific results on strength and density for the trials in Experiment 6. It was also found that all other interactions were negligible at a 90% level of confidence. 3. which should be as high as possible. 4 3. Although it is known that most volumetric extenders tend to reduce the strength of filled polymers.R. These two requirements are conflicting and often the same factor or factor level that will increase the density may.5 1 0.5 Strength (MPa) 3 2.1.

not the most important factor influencing flexural strength.2 18.3 41.5 1. B.J. the aim is to maximise phosphogypsum utilization.3% to the density of the composite.R. The density of the resin is considerably less than that of phosphogypsum.J.2 6. The amount of resin used also strongly influences the flexural strength of the composite. The effect of the amount of resin was also investigated in Experiment 4 and is presented in Fig.W.4 = 4.e.2 = 8. Although this strategy will result in lower densities.53 Table 5 ANOVA table for strength (phosphogypsum–polymer composites) DOF % Resin (%R) Ratio coarse: fine vermiculite (dp) Ratio gypsum to vermiculite (GV) Interaction %R · dp Interaction dp · GV Interaction %R · GV Error F Percentage contribution 10. i. 4. however. when more vermiculite is used there is more porosity in the composite and hence the strength will decrease.0 1.0 269 1 352 1 155 1 63 1 48 Factor pooled 1 138 2 error R x GV R x dp %R GV dp Total 7 100 F1. 4.3 8. du Plessis / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 265–274 Table 4 ANOVA table for density (phosphogypsum–polymer composites) Factor % Resin (%R) Ratio coarse: fine vermiculite (dp) Ratio gypsum to vermiculite (GV) Interaction %R · dp Interaction dp · GV Interaction %R · GV Error DOF F Percentage contribution 46. It therefore might seem logical to simply increase the amount of resin in order to decrease the density. This is due to the vermiculite acting only as a volumetric extender. contributing 46. The advantage of a lower density is therefore compromised by the lower flexural strength.6 1 46 1 183 Factor pooled Factor pooled Factor pooled 1 204 4 error %R 46. Verbeek.3 20.G. ANOVA also revealed that the percentage resin is the most important factor. Density (Kg/m ) Strength (MPa) 3 . It 1600 1400 1200 1000 800 600 400 200 0 20 30 40 % Resin 50 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 Fig. The effect of percentage resin on the density and flexural strength of phosphogypsum–polymer composites (Experiment 4). This is.54 in terms of producing low density composites. The interaction of the amount of resin with the ratio gypsum to vermiculite is more prominent than the percentage resin alone.6 R x GV dp Total 7 100 F1.C.

misleading and only true for the range in which these composites were tested. Optimal performance is therefore achieved by using as little as possible vermiculite and enough resin to ensure proper binding of all particles. To explain the behaviour of these composites and to establish a reference. This factor does however shows major interaction effects. B. it was decided to also prepare hydrated gypsum sheets with no additives.R. By using too little water. as evident from Figs. Effect of percentage resin and particle size distribution on the density (a) and strength (b) of vermiculite/resin composites. less resin is absorbed and by increasing the amount of resin the strength of the composite is not increased. In this case the change in density is only due to the difference between the density of phosphogypsum and the resin and is much less pronounced than the change in flexural strength. 5. the workability of the gypsum paste be- 1000 800 600 400 200 0 20 25% Coarse 75% Coarse (a) 30 40 % Resin 50 2800 2400 2000 1600 1200 800 400 0 Density (Kg/m3) Strength (kPa) 25% Coarse 75% Coarse 20 (b) 30 40 % Resin 50 Fig. 2 shows that a high ratio of coarse to fine particles resulted in a higher density. When resin is absorbed into the vermiculite it facilitates better stress transfer. Verbeek.J. using phosphogypsum. When a high ratio is used the finer vermiculite as well as phosphogypsum particles can occupy the spaces between the larger particles. The interaction with the percentage resin contributed 18% with respect to density and 46% in terms of the flexural strength.2. The density and strength of composites prepared by only vermiculite and resin (Experiment 5). The fact that phosphogypsum also took up the voids between the larger vermiculite particles overshadowed the negative effect of larger particles. Therefore. It is suspected that this lower strength material is due to the incompatibility between water and the resin. This interaction effect can be expected to be very prominent.J. The main effect of the ratio coarse to fine vermiculite was dominant and contributed 42% towards the change in flexural strength (Table 5). This factor. The strength of these composites is influenced in a similar manner. CaSO4 Á 1 H O–polymer composites 2 2 In this section the performance of composites manufactured from CaSO4 Á 1 H O was evaluated. By using more than the stoichiometric amount of water. The amount of water used for hydration was varied and the results of Experiment 1 are shown in Fig.3. when the amount of polymer is increased the composite strength is increased. The decrease in density when using more resin is therefore most likely due to some of the resin being absorbed into the exfoliated vermiculite. Each of these factors will be discussed separately in subsequent paragraphs. low strength composites are formed. This is. It was found that the factors influencing composite properties the most are the percentage resin and the interaction between the particle size distribution and the ratio gypsum to vermiculite. The smaller particles will also tend to absorb more resin and therefore using a high ratio coarse to fine particle will result in a lower density.1. Un-exfoliated vermiculite has a much higher density than the resin and therefore the composite density will decrease when using more resin.2. the density and strength of the gypsum sheets are reduced. Ratio coarse to fine vermiculite particles The ratio in which particles of different sizes are mixed. Normally larger particles would rather act as a point on discontinuity. 5. For the same reason the interaction between the ratio coarse to fine particles and the ratio gypsum to vermiculite is negligible for both density and strength. due to the reduced density of the composite. 2 and 3. . When combined with a high ratio of coarse to fine particles the effect is amplified because of the reduction in density (higher porosity) and the fact that vermiculite cannot contribute to the strength of the composite. When using a low amount of resin.270 C. In the case of the high ratio coarse to fine vermiculite particles. Fig.G. In this case the resin is denser than exfoliated vermiculite. The large quantity of water necessary for hydration causes phase separation before and during curing and therefore. little binder is available and this results in low strength. determines the packing efficiency thereof and hence the density and the strength of the composite. 3. du Plessis / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 265–274 can clearly be seen that more resin binds the gypsum more efficiently thereby increasing the flexural strength. however.W. Using a lower ratio phosphogypsum to vermiculite will therefore result in a lower density. 6. which leads to stress concentrations and hence lower flexural strengths. ANOVA (Table 4) revealed that the ratio coarse to fine particles contributed 20% to the change in density of the composites. contributes only 8% to the change in density and was found to be insignificant in terms of flexural strength. are shown in Fig. 3. It was 2 2 found that generally weaker composites formed as compared to similar formulations. Improved packing efficiency will also result in improved flexural strength. 3. Ratio phosphogypsum to vermiculite Exfoliated vermiculite has a considerably lower density than phosphogypsum. however.1.

G.C.1. 7. du Plessis / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 265–274 271 1600 1400 1200 1000 800 600 400 200 0 0.R. Density and flexural strength of hydrated CaSO4 Á 1 H O using 2 2 various quantities of water. while that of flexural strength are presented in Fig. 8. The behaviour of the composites containing resin and vermiculite is much more complex and each factor warrants its own discussion. and the strength often decreases. an increase in resin content leads to a decrease in density.5 1 0. 7.5 2 Strength (Mpa) 1.5 2 1. B.5% to the change in density of these composites. Main and interaction effects of parameters tested with respect to density of CaSO4 Á 1 H O–polymer composites. ANOVA (Table 6) revealed that the percentage resin and the amount of water used contributed significantly to the change in density. 1000 950 Density (Kg/m3) 900 850 800 750 700 650 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 % Resin (%R) Ratio coarse to fine vermiculite (dp) % H20 Ratio gypsum to vermiculite (GV) interaction %R x dp interaction dp x GV interaction %R x GV Fig. 6. Verbeek. Main and interaction effects of parameters tested with respect to flexural strength of CaSO4 Á 1 H O–polymer composites.J. This result is most likely due to the resin interfering with the crystal formation Density (Kg/m ) comes problematic.5 3 2.W. the strength of these composites decreased when more resin was used.6 0. The interaction of the percentage resin with the particle size distribution was found to be insignificant.2. 3. 2 2 2.5 1 0. ANOVA (Table 7) revealed that the percentage resin and the ratio gypsum to vermiculite were the only factors that contributed significantly at a 80% level of confidence. For flexural strength. The main effects of each factor. The results of each trial in Experiment 7 are presented in Table 3. The resin has a lower density than gypsum and therefore. 2 2 .5 0 water content (g/g) Fig. Percentage resin The percentage resin contributed 35. 8. In contradiction with what was found with the phosphogypsum composites.8 4 3. The significant interaction parameters were found to be the interaction of particle size distribution with the percentage resin as well as with the ratio gypsum to vermiculite. However. as can be seen from the graph. with respect to density are shown in Fig.5 0 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 Ratio coarse to fine vermiculite (dp) interaction %R x dp interaction dp x GV interaction %R x GV % Resin (%R) Strength (MPa) 3 % H20 Ratio gypsum to vermiculite (GV) Parameter and level Fig.3 0. the interaction between the particle size distribution and the ratio gypsum to vermiculite was more important.J.

00 0.5 33. CaSO4 Á 1 H O and the required amount of 2 2 water for hydration was prepared (Experiment 2). the former was only significant with respect to density and the latter with respect to strength. the results of which are shown in Fig.272 C.0 4 4 3 12. 9. quantities of resin and 0.3 7. At 50% resin the composite failed under its own weight.2 error %R x GV %R 92 21 43.7 9. Density of strength of hydrated CaSO4 Á 1 H O using various 2 2 H O.00 3.00 1.68 GV of the CaSO4.W.J. The interaction of the percentage resin with the ratio gypsum to vermiculite contributed 9.G.6 g water/g CaSO4 Á 1 2 2 particle size distribution (%R · dp).2 = 3. Verbeek. the resin is unable to bind the CaSO4 particles.56 % Water Table 7 H O–polymer composites) ANOVA table for strength (CaSO4 Á 1 2 2 Factor % Resin (%R) Ratio coarse: fine vermiculite (dp) % Water for hydration Ratio gypsum to vermiculite (GV) Interaction %R · dp Interaction dp · GV Interaction %R · GV Error DOF 1 Factor pooled Factor pooled 1 1 1 Factor pooled 3 F 8 Percentage contribution 32. Two possible interactions with the percentage resin exist.00 0 10 20 % Resin 30 Strength (MPa) 1000 800 600 400 200 0 5.3% to the change in . ANOVA also revealed that the percentage resin had the largest contribution to the flexural strength of these composites. These are the interaction with the ratio gypsum to vermiculite (%R · GV) and the interaction with the 1200 Density (Kg/m3) 6. It can be seen from the figure that a maximum of 10% resin can be tolerated by the gypsum matrix before the strength drops significantly.3 dp x GV Total 7 100 F1. du Plessis / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 265–274 Table 6 ANOVA table for density (CaSO4 Á 1 H O–polymer composites) 2 2 Factor % Resin (%R) Ratio coarse: fine vermiculite (dp) % Water for hydration Ratio gypsum to vermiculite (GV) Interaction %R · dp Interaction dp · GV Interaction %R · GV Error DOF 1 Factor pooled 1 Factor pooled Factor pooled 1 1 3 F 75 11 Percentage contribution 35.J. To verify this.5 4.7 error %R dp x GV R x dp Total 7 100 F1.00 Fig. 9.6 12.3 = 2. The results presented in this figure confirm what was found in Experiment 7.00 4. It is likely that above 10% resin the formation of a crystal structure is very difficult and due to the presence of a large amount of water.2 9.R.00 2. composites of only resin. Of these. B.

but its interaction with the amount of resin used was. If the porosity of the vermiculite is therefore filled by the slurry of gypsum and water. since vermiculite is not a reinforcement. the weakest composite is produced. It is also evident that using more coarse particles (dp level 2) and more resin (% resin level 2) results in a composite with highest strength.C. such as the packing density and possible phase separation over shadows the effects introduced by varying the amount of water used for hydration. This was the case with the ratio gypsum to vermiculite where the factor alone was insignificant.W. in all cases. Density (a) and flexural strength (b) of hydrated CaSO4/ vermiculite composites. The interaction of the particle size distribution with the ratio gypsum to vermiculite was found to be the most important aspect of the composite with respect to density.G. 2 2 The most important observations from these graphs are that the particle size distribution has very little effect on either density or strength and that the density and strength of the composites are higher when more vermiculite is present. Verbeek. . this interaction effect was found to be negligible with respect to flexural strength. Better packing can be achieved with a high ratio coarse to fine particles and hence the binder is more efficient which results in a higher strength. without any resin. the effect 2 2 thereof on the flexural strength of the composites produced in Experiment 7 was negligible.R.J. the vermiculite may act as a reinforcement. 10.2.4. therefore. It also only had a minor effect on the compositeÕs density. Percentage water used for hydration Although this parameter proved to be very important for hydrating CaSO4 Á 1 H O (Experiment 1). lead to higher densities. This was also the case with the phosphogypsum composites. B. but that the interactions between them are often more important. 10.2. By using more vermiculite. was used as volumetric extender to cured CaSO4 Á 1 H O. By increasing the amount of vermiculite will. Other effects.J. however. The interactions of this factor. will result in a composite with lower density.2% towards the main effect. that a better packing density improves the strength of the composite. This behaviour is slightly different to what is expected. The interaction with the particle size distribution was discussed earlier. high gypsum to vermiculite ratio). These were the amount of phenol formaldehyde used as binder. but a volumetric extender. It was found that as far as the phosphogypsum composites are concerned. This relates primarily to the packing density that can be achieved and it was found. this interaction seems correct. with a smaller average particle size. This result is similar to that of Experiment 6. a lower density composite is produced. It is known that exfoliated vermiculite can absorb a large amount of liquid. In this experiment vermiculite. Particle size distribution This factor was found to be insignificant towards both density and flexural strength. The hemi-hydrate composites showed opposite behaviour 1000 2000 Strength (kPa) 25% Coarse 75% Coarse Density (Kg/m3) 800 600 400 200 0 20 1600 1200 800 25% Coarse 75% Coarse 400 0 20 30 40 50 % Vermiculite (a) 30 40 50 % Vermiculite (b) Fig. Although this combination of factors seemingly results in a composite with low strength. Conclusions The flexural strength and density of calcium phosphate composites are influenced by several factors. In this case. at different particle sizes. but increases its density. however. For optimal flexural strength more gypsum should be used (i. are more pronounced. it is possible that the low density of the vermiculite is lost. 3. using more resin and a high ratio of coarse to fine particles result in the lowest density and highest strength composites. At the same time.e. The extent to which this effect is present in the other composites is negligible in terms of density and the reverse is true in terms of strength when a resin binder is also included. It was also found that not all factors mentioned above contribute directly to the performance of the composites. 3. 3. but its interactions not. the particle size distribution of the vermiculite used and the amount gypsum in the final product.2.. and only a small effect on flexural strength. 4. It was also found that the properties of the composite are strongly dependent on the particle size distribution (ratio coarse to fine particles) of the vermiculite.2. In light of earlier discussions. du Plessis / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 265–274 273 density. With respect to flexural strength it was found (Table 7) that the interaction of percentage resin with the particle size distribution contributed 12. Using more resin and more vermiculite. In addition to the importance of these factors the flexural strength of the phosphogypsum composites was increased by increasing the resin content. Gypsum to vermiculite ratio This factor on its own showed an insignificant effect on density. but some further insight can be gained by examining the results of Experiment 3 presented in Fig.3. prior to hydration. contributing 44% to the main effect.

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