Ceramicrete Phosphate Ceramic
Source: Argonne National Lab
Date: 10/23/97    Record No.: 10510
Contact: Don Johnson, Director, Center for Industrial Technology Systems 630-252-3392

Ceramicrete Phosphate Ceramic
(...particularly applicable to fly-ash)

Argonne has developed this low-cost, ceramic binder which can be used in a wide variety of commercial applications, ranging from hazardous waste disposal to low-cost insulation. Since it won the R&D 100 award in 1996, Argonne has had more than 100 serious licensing inquiries, so they are setting strict conditions that applicants have a specific application and a well developed business plan. They're open to collaboration for development and testing to see what specifications can be met with the particular materials in question.

Called CERAMICRETE, the binder -- developed to stabilize and solidify radioactive and hazardous wastes -- can also join ceramics together and convert nonhazardous wastes into useful construction products and nonflammable structural materials. It is formed by mixing magnesium oxide powder and soluble phosphate powder (common low cost materials) with water.

It is particularly applicable to fly-ash, because it is completely insensitive to the pH level, and it immobilizes virtually any type of contaminant, including mercury and other heavy metals. It forms a nonporous leach-resistant, hard, and dense ceramic which lab tests indicate meet or pass the EPA TCLP leaching standards.

CERAMICRETE can be manufactured at a low cost compared to other ceramic binders because it is made at room temperature and does not need high-temperature treatment. The setting times are short. Equipment needed is conventional (much like for cement) and hence is readily available, and training required for operations is simple.

The final material can be cast in any shape, and is very dense and strong. It can be used as a structural material in buildings, roads or other structures, or as brick, blocks, or tiles. It has compressive strength ranging from 2000 psi with binder to 6-8000 psi and even more with binder plus additives. In fact, the materials properties can be tailored, with strength increased by compaction during formation.

Besides solidifying wastes, the process can be used to convert lumber wastes into non-flammable particle board or to recycle waste plastic into blowable insulation that is fire- and moisture-proof. CERAMICRETE has already been used to make insulation products with thermal resistance (R values) of 4.5 per inch.

Argonne is using the CERAMICRETE process to stabilize low-level radioactive waste, such as soil, sludge, and lead bricks in a 55-gallon drum mixer. Contaminated wastes that contain radioactive contaminants and hazardous volatiles, such as mercury, lead, and cadmium are solidified in the binding process at room temperature to form a ceramic, noncorrosive, and final waste form. The process is unique because contaminants are converted and stabilized chemically into their natural minerals in a single step. Once encapsulated, the chemicals do not dissolve in groundwater and are isolated from the environment. Performance tests show that the waste forms far exceed the regulatory performance criteria set by DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Contact: Don Johnson, Director, Center for Industrial Technology Systems 630-252-3392


>From the 18th U.S. Department of Energy Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Conference held in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, on May 20-22, 1997.


A. S. Wagh, D. Singh, S. Y. Jeong, and R. V. Strain
Energy Technology Division, Argonne National Laboratory


During the last three years, Ceramicrete (chemically bonded phosphate ceramics) has been investigated at Argonne-East for low-temperature stabilization and solidification of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE's) mixed wastes, for which conventional high-temperature treatments cannot be used because of volatiles and pyrophorics present in these wastes. This paper summarizes the development of Ceramicrete and provides the current technology status. We discuss our early investigations with surrogates that are typical of DOE mixed wastes, subsequent testing with actual waste streams, and scale-up of the process to an operational level. Current efforts include testing the process at an operational level for an ash waste stream from the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and obtaining sufficient information to prepare a technology performance report.

Complete paper available at:

Topics: coal