Converting industrial waste into a value-added cement material through ambient pressure carbonation

Xiangping Xian, Mehrdad Mahoutian, Shipeng Zhang, Yixin Shao, Duo Zhang, Jingyi Liu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Converting industrial wastes into value-added building products in an environmental management strategy is a challenging yet vital component of the industrial process. Steel slag (SS), an industrial waste by-product from the steel-making process, is typically disposed of in landfill which consumes land resources and pollutes the environment. This paper explores the possibility of a closed-loop system to convert steel slag into a cement material through carbonation activation, thereby significantly reducing the amount of steel slag waste sent to landfills across Canada. The production of this cementing material can occur next to the steel mill, utilizing steel slag and carbon dioxide collected on-site to fabricate carbon-negative products. To save energy and allow production to be feasible on an industrial scale, ambient pressure (AP) carbonation is developed to reduce carbon emissions while improving their performance. High pressure (HP) carbonation curing and normal hydration (NH) references were also implemented at the same time to justify the application of AP carbonation in reducing CO2 emission. The results of this study found AP carbonation-activated SS compacts have comparable CO2 uptake (about 7.5 tons CO2/100 tons slag) and mechanically compressive strength values as those subjected to HP carbonation, suggesting that AP could be used to replace HP in carbonation curing to ensure a lower energy input. Additionally, AP seemed to possess as effective carbonation as HP. The studies investigated by multiple techniques including X-ray diffractometer (XRD), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), Raman spectroscopic analysis, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) aim to identify the microstructure development of carbonated SS paste to assess carbonation results. Developed with life cycle assessment (LCA), environmental impact evaluation shows that AP presents a smaller global warming potential (GWP) value than HP. The comparable CO2 sequestration, satisfactory engineering properties, enhanced microstructure and lesser environmental impact in AP carbonation confirm the feasibility of replacing high pressure with extremely low pressure to cure concrete products. The use of AP carbonation for cement material created using steel slag reduces carbon emissions, energy usage, and natural resource consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116603
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • Ambient pressure carbonation
  • Carbonation curing
  • CO sequestration
  • Industrial waste
  • Steel slag

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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