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Preparation and Characterization of Bricks using Bauxite Residue

- An innovative approach
B. K. Satpathy1, M. J. Chaddha2, R. J. Sharma2, S. B. Rai2, Amber Roy3
DGM (R & D), National Aluminium Co. Ltd.
Scientist, JNARDDC, Nagpur
Consultant, MRCPL (Manishree Refractory & Ceramics Pty. Ltd.)

Bauxite residue (red mud) is generated during the production of alumina from bauxite using
the Bayer process. The amount generated is increasing day by day and hence its bulk
utilization for production of usable products is constantly strived. Though a number of
researchers in India and worldwide have carried out research on developing constructional
product such as brick or shape etc. out of red mud, fly ash and other additives, none of the
process has been commercially successful due to various limitations. The present paper is the
outcome of a joint project taken up by JNARDDC along with NALCO and MRCPL in which
rigorous experiments with various admixture of different raw material with red mud have
been tried to optimize the process. A patented process for the manufacture of red mud
bricks/stabilized blocks and ceramic stone chips have been developed which has also been
proven at the pilot scale. To establish the process pilot scale studies were conducted to
manufacture around 10,000 bricks and their test marketing.
Various raw materials along with red mud and finished products were characterized to find
its chemical composition and physical properties to ascertain its properties for construction
purpose. The bricks and blocks prepared from the bauxite residue, plastic clay and
mineralizer exhibited excellent compressive strength and constructional properties. Further,
the leachability studies in normal water and sea water showed almost nil leaching of alkali.
The techno-economics of the process has been worked out for a demonstration plant of
suitable size for its commercialization. The process has resulted in a solution to the problem
associated with red mud disposal by way of producing usable bulk materials.
Key Words : Red mud bricks; Stabilised Blocks; Leachability; Compressive Strength

1. Introduction
Bauxite residue (red mud) is a potential waste emerging out of alumina refinery. It requires a
large amount of area for disposal and mostly it is disposed by conventional wet disposal
system in large size lagoons, while the return water is reused back in the plant. The new
generation plants are using a dry disposal system to reduce the area required for disposal.
Red mud consist of several major elements such as Al2O3, Fe2O3, TiO2, SiO2, Na2O, varying
in composition depending upon the source of bauxite, raw material and technology adopted.
The red mud generated using bauxite from Indias east coast is rich in iron and low in TiO2
while plant using central Indian bauxite is moderate in iron but rich in TiO2. Several
researchers have carried out research on utilization of the bauxite residue for development of
material for constructional application. In India BHU- Metallurgy department has carried out
studies on utilization of red mud and fly ash mixture for making bricks using red mud
generated at HINDALCO. Also CBRI, Roorkee has developed a know-how using admixture
of red mud, fly ash and clay to produce fired bricks. IMMT, Bhubaneswar has also
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developed a process for preparation of bricks using red mud and fly ash. A number of
researchers internationally had used various admixture of red mud with fly ash, clay,
Portland cement, shale, gypsum, lime, blast furnace slag, and other material to produce
stabilized blocks, fired bricks for its utilization for construction and building application.
They have patented some of the processes and have obtained bricks with good compressive
strength. The draw backs observed in all the processes was that none of the early researchers
had looked into the problem relating to caustic leaching during its use. Also the utilization of
red mud in these processes are limited to 40-50% maximum and most of the researchers have
carried out bench scale studies and no pilot plant studies were carried out to work out the
techno-economics. Hence, even though some of the processes were technically feasible there
economics and market acceptability was not proven. Also some radioactivity issue with the
products was not addressed. In India, the alumina manufacturing unit at Damanjodi
(NALCO) has a rated capacity of 1.575 Million ton/annum which is being expanded up to
2.1 Million ton/annum. Hindalco is having alumina manufacturing unit at Renukoot in U.P,
Muri in Jharkhand and Belgaum in Karnataka. Vedanta has alumina manufacturing unit at
Lanjigarh, Orissa. Also ANRAK Aluminium is setting up 1.5 Million ton alumina plant in
Vishakhapatnam based on Andhra bauxite. Thus the overall problem of red mud generation
is going to increase in gigantic proportion and needs to be tackled. Hence it is necessary to
develop processes or products for bulk utilization of red mud in with techno economic
viability. NALCO along with Manishri Refractories and Ceramics private Ltd. (MRCPL)
Cuttack, after carrying out a number of rigorous experiments at laboratory scale with various
admixture of raw material, could develop a patented process for preparation of red mud
brick, stabilized blocks and stone chips with excellent properties application for construction
purpose. Based on encouraging results, it was decided to take up pilot scale studies in
association with JNARDDC to establish the viability of process with detailed
characterization of the raw materials as well as the finished products. Accordingly, around
10,000 constructional bricks, 20 nos. of stabilized blocks and 2-3 MT of artificial ceramic
stone chip, were produced under optimum conditions, characterized in details and also test
2. Raw Material for Production of Bricks
Red mud generated at NALCO Damanjodi refinery was used along with mineralizer,
soapstone Mg6 [Si8O20] (OH)4 or talc powder and highly siliceous plastic clay available
locally (to minimize the logistic cost) under different combinations. Also different types of
clay have been tried to optimize the most suitable clay available in the state of Orissa. The
chemical analysis of the raw material finally used in the experiments is shown in the Table 1.
The clay materials used in the process are predominantly siliceous material with 45-50%
SiO2 and 25-30% Al2O3 content. Mineraliser used helps in binding and vitrification.
Table 1. Chemical Analysis of Red Mud (%)
SN Al2O3 SiO2 Fe2O3 TiO2 Na2O CaO LOI
1 17.82 3.80 57.50 3.72 4.32 0.84 11.33
2 18.05 3.89 57.21 3.57 4.40 0.81 11.75
3 17.95 3.84 57.67 3.60 4.36 0.71 11.42
B. K. Satpathy et al. : Preparation and Characterization of Bricks using Bauxite Residue 229

3. Process for Production of Bricks and Stone chips

Under optimum conditions, it has been found that 60-80% of red mud could be used in the
process along with the clay and mineralizer. Formulations with variation in compositions
were experimented under different processing conditions of mixing, drying temperature and
firing conditions to optimise the process for parameters for preparation of constructional
building blocks/bricks as well as artificial ceramic stone chips that could be used in concrete
mix. High siliceous plastic clay was used as bonding material and soapstone / talc was used
as a mineralizer in the mix to the extent of 20-40%. Iron oxide and soda present in the red
mud acted as catalyst for sintering and vitrification. The products exhibited high load bearing
strength in the ceramic body on firing at elevated temperature.
The process is very simple in which raw material, red mud was mixed with clay and
mineraliser in a Muller mixer with required quantity of water. This stage of process
methodology is common for constructional bricks, stabilized blocks and ceramic stone chips.
The mixed material was subjected to an extruder for brick making or made blocks by
handmade moulds followed by wire cutting at the appropriate length. The green products
were kept for air drying up to 24-72 hours and then fired at 900-1200oC for bricks and
stabilized blocks. The green body for ceramic stone chips was fired at elevated temperature
after which it was crushed and ground to different sizes. During the process of heating a
number of reactions takes place resulting in fixation of bound as well as soluble soda. The
heating, firing and cooling cycle is important in exhibiting the desired properties of the

4. Characterisation of Products
4.1 Chemical Analysis
The bricks were analysed for their chemical constituent using conventional wet chemical
method. Results obtained under different set of experiments are reported below in Table.2.
Table 2. Chemical Analysis of Fired Bricks and Stabilized Blocks (%)
SN Al2O3 SiO2 Fe2O3 TiO2 Na2O + K2O CaO + MgO LOI
1. 30.00 22.13 36.30 3.78 3.26 3.16 1.30
2. 28.61 20.88 38.42 4.25 3.34 3.34 1.13
3. 29.87 21.45 36.85 3.98 3.30 3.28 1.20
4. 28.66 22.76 36.78 3.95 3.27 3.33 1.21
5. 26.88 22.56 38.60 4.29 3.43 3.38 0.83
6. 27.90 22.78 37.32 4.21 3.31 3.27 1.18
7. 29.70 22.00 36.42 3.82 3.49 3.18 1.26
4.2 Physical Properties of Fired Bricks
The fired bricks have been tested for tests specified by IS: 1077 : 1992 for common burnt
clay building bricks specification. Apart from it a number of additional tests have been
carried out to characterize the produced fired bricks. The test specified in IS 1077: 1992
includes determination of compressive strength, water absorption and efflorescence. Apart
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from it, the dry density, bulk density and porosity has also been determined to characterize
the product. Also caustic leachability was tested to ensure presence of free alkali.
4.3 Compressive Strength of Fired Bricks
The fired bricks have been tested in accordance with procedure laid down in IS 3495 (Part 1)
: 1992 with minimum average compressive strength for various classes are shown in Table 3.
The fired bricks prepared at pilot scale in different batches were tested both in-house as well
as in outside laboratory. Test reports of M/s. Geotech, a NABL accredited laboratory in
Nagpur are shown in Table-4 for reference.
Table 3. Classes of Common Burnt Clay Bricks
Class designation Average Compressive strength not less than
N/mm2 Kg/cm2
35 35.0 350
30 30.0 300
25 25.0 250
20 20.0 200
17.5 17.5 175
15 15.0 150
12.5 12.5 125
10 10.0 100
7.5 7.5 75
5 5.0 50
3.5 3.5 35
Table 4. Compressive Strength of Fired Bricks
S.N Load at Failure, KN* Average Compressive
strength, N/mm2
1 495 19.06
2 561 20.32
3 600 27.87
4 246 11.42
5 280 11.84
6 631 24.94
7 650 25.70
KN* - Force in Kilo Newton required to completely crush the brick
From the compressive strength determined as per IS 3495 Part 1): 1992, the bricks qualify to
the class 20 to 25 with few bricks showing class 10 which was deliberately fired at a lower
temperature to find the effect on strength. However the average results of around 20.16
N/mm2 indicated the bricks to be of class 20 category.
B. K. Satpathy et al. : Preparation and Characterization of Bricks using Bauxite Residue 231

4.4 Water Absorption of Fired Bricks

The bricks were tested in accordance with the procedure laid down in IS 3495 (Part 2) : 1992
for water absorption. As per the specification the bricks after immersion in cold water for 24
hours, should not have water absorption of more than 20 % by weight (for class up to 12.5)
and 15 % by weight (for higher classes bricks). The results of the water absorption of fired
bricks are shown in Table-5.
Table 5. Water Absorption in Fired Bricks
S.N Dry Weight gm Wet Weight gm Water Absorption % by weight
1 3855 4664.5 23.27
2 3310 4081 20.99
3 2459.5 2995.5 21.79
4 2580.5 3205.5 24.22
5 2847.5 3500.5 22.93
6 3197 3894.5 21.81
7 3194 3899.5 22.08
The average water absorption of the bricks belonging to Class 12.5 should not be more than
20 %. This can be achieved by optimizing chemical composition and temperature of firing so
that average porosity is below 0.35. The water absorption is a function of the porosity of the
bricks. Bricks with high porosity, may have lighter weight, hence water absorption is higher.
The average porosity of the brick is 0.38 %. One can reduce on the porosity, if we want to
reduce water absorption, but in this case their dry density will become high and bricks will
be heavier. The average compressive strength it lies in class 20 However for Class 20 and
above water absorption below 15 % which can be achieved by optimizing the firing
temperature so as to reduce moisture content less than 15 % can also be achieved by
optimizing the firing cycle.
4.5 Efflorescence in Fired Bricks
Efflorescence is a property exhibited by bricks in which the soluble salt from the bricks
come up on the surface of the bricks and on evaporation of moisture it leaves a whitish
colour appearance on the bricks surface. The fired bricks were tested in accordance with the
procedure laid down in IS 3495 (Part 3): 1992 which states that the rating of efflorescence
shall not be more than moderate up to class 12.5 and slight for the higher classes. The
results obtained for red mud bricks are shown in Table- 6 below.
Table 6. Efflorescence in Fired Bricks
S.N Efflorescence
1 nil
2 nil
3 nil
4 nil
5 nil
6 nil
7 nil
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Thus the product, fired bricks have shown excellent property also with respect to
4.6 Dry density, Bulk density and Porosity of Fired Bricks:
Though there is no mention of these properties in IS 1077 : 1992 specification for bricks,
efforts have been made to determine them. Porosity, bulk density and dry density determined
for the fired bricks are shown in Table-7.
Table 7. Dry density, bulk density and porosity of Fired Bricks
S.N Dry density,gm/cc Bulk density, gm/cc Porosity (%)
1 1.57 1.94 0.37
2 1.74 2.11 0.37
3 1.68 2.04 0.36
4 1.71 2.12 0.41
5 1.60 1.97 0.37
6 1.68 2.05 0.37
7 1.80 2.20 0.40
From the above observation it can be concluded that the average dry density of fired bricks is
1.68 gm/cc, while the average bulk density is 2.06 gm/cc and the average porosity of the
bricks produced from red mud is around 0.38 %.
4.7 Microstructure Analysis

Fig 1 : SEM micrographs of bricks from different batch

B. K. Satpathy et al. : Preparation and Characterization of Bricks using Bauxite Residue 233

4.8 Caustic Leachability of Bricks in Distilled Water and Sea Water

The leachability studies carried out using distilled water and sea water indicated almost no
leachable soda coming out in water even after a period of 49 days. The application of
stabilized blocks prepared from red mud having similar composition as red mud bricks is for
its use at sea shore to prevent erosion of shores by sea waves. Hence studies of leachability
were conducted for both distilled water and sea water. The sample was immersed in 5 litre
closed container containing distilled water/sea water and its pH was determined every week.
The variation of pH with time of immersion of red mud brick is shown in Fig. 2 below. The
result show almost negligible caustic soda leaching.
The raw material and products were also characterized for any radioactive and heavy
elements. It has been found that they are much below the thresh hold level and safe for the
type of application such as: bricks, blocks etc.

8 Solution
pH of
7.6 distilled
7.4 sea water
0 7 14 21 28 35 42 49 56
Days of Immersion

Fig 2. Variation of pH with time of immersion of Red Mud Brick

5.0 Cost Economics of the Process

The cost economics details were carried out for a demonstration plant to produce 100
tons/day. The project has been found to be economically viable. However a smaller size
demonstration plant of suitable size will be set-up at NALCO for outside parties to take up
the technology for its commercialization.

6.0 Conclusions
The project aimed at developing, three products namely, fired brick, stabilization blocks and
artificial ceramic stone chips. The novelty of the process is that the formulation of the raw
material is same for all the three products and leachable caustic problem could be resolved
by converting the red mud to bulk usable products. Characterization of products revealed
very little variation in chemical composition and physical properties indicating complete
homogeneity of the mix. The bricks produced by this process showed a good compressive
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strength having an average compressive strength of 20.16 N/mm2. The average porosity of
the bricks was 0.38 and its average dry density and bulk density was 1.68 gm/cc and 2.06
gm/cc respectively. The bricks showed almost nil efflorescence, but the water absorption
was slightly high 22.44 %. The bricks produced could be very competitive and superior in
quality considering the commercial bricks used for construction (class 7.5 and 10). The
process from its techno-economics could be able to provide solution associated with red mud
disposal and producing bulk usable materials.

7.0 References

[1] Thakur, R.S., and Das, S.N. Red Mud Analysis and Utilisation Book published by
Wiley Eastern Limited, 1994
[2] Report on Developing Guidelines for the disposal and Utilisation of red mud from
Aluminium Industry prepared by JNARDDC, Nagpur on project sponsored by CPCB,
New Delhi, 1996.
[3] Report on Pilot Scale Development of Process Technology for Manufacturing of
Constructional Blocks/Bricks and Artificial Ceramic Stone Chips Utilizing Red Mud a
joint collaborative project between JNARDDC, MRCPL and NALCO, sponsored by
NALCO, 2010.
[4] Process for preparation of constructional bricks, blocks, artificial stone chips utilizing red
mud as the main base material Patent Filed (No.-472/KOL/2009)