A major milestone in the use of geopolymer concrete - Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport

Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport (BWWA) became fully operational with commercial flights operated by Qantas Link in November 2014.  BWWA is built with approximately 40,000 m3 of geopolymer concrete making it the largest application of this new class of concrete in the world. Heavy duty geopolymer concrete was used for the turning node, apron and taxiways pavements using a slip form paving machine. The proprietary geopolymer concrete was found to be well suited for this construction method due to its high flexural tensile strength, low shrinkage and workability characteristics.

CIES’ Adjunct Assoc. Prof James Aldred has been advising Wagners on various aspects of the geopolymer concrete. CIES, as part of the Low Carbon Living CRC, is monitoring the structural behaviour of the geopolymer concrete in the entry bridge to the airport. The CRC project is developing a handbook through Standards Australia to assist engineers and end-users in specifying and using geopolymer concrete with greater confidence and less risk. This will remove a major barrier to the use of low carbon geopolymer concretes and profoundly increase their use in the construction industry.

Geopolymer concrete is the result of the reaction of materials containing aluminosilicate with concentrated alkaline solution to produce an inorganic polymer binder. Most applications to date have been in the precast industry using accelerated curing but the use of geopolymer concrete in ready mixed applications is increasing. This has been motivated by the sustainability benefits of using a binder system which does not include Portland cement but is composed almost entirely of recycled materials. This successful application of geopolymer concrete in a full commercial scale like BWWA is a significant milestone in the use of this truly novel and environmentally responsible material.

Aerial photograph of BWWA.
Geopolymer concrete being placed using paving machine.
First plane to land at BWWA witnessed by Prof Stephen Foster and Adj Assoc Prof James Aldred during site visit 28 August 2014.
 BWWA entry bridge constructed with geopolymer concrete on composite beams being monitored by CIES.
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