Replacement of natural sand with expanded vermiculite in fly ash-based geopolymer mortars

Osman Gencel, Aliakbar Gholampour, Hayrettin Tokay, Togay Ozbakkaloglu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Increasing the thermal insulation of building components to reduce the thermal energy loss of buildings has received significant attention. Owing to its porous structure, using expanded vermiculite as an alternative to natural river sand in the development of building materials would result in improvement of the thermal performance of buildings. This study investigates the properties of fly ash (FA)-based geopolymer mortars prepared with expanded vermiculite. The main aim of this study was to produce geopolymer mortar with lower thermal conductivity than conventional mortar for thermal insulation applications in buildings. A total of twelve batches of geopolymers were prepared for evaluating their different properties. The obtained results show that, at a given FA and expanded vermiculite content, the geopolymers prepared with a 10 molar NaOH solution exhibited a higher flowability, water absorption and porosity, as well as a lower dry unit weight, compressive strength, ultrasound pulse velocity and thermal conductivity compared with those prepared with a 15 molar NaOH solution. As is also shown, the geopolymers containing expanded vermiculite (15%) developed a lower flowability (~6%), dry unit weight (~6%), compressive strength (~7%), ultrasound pulse velocity (~6%) and thermal conductivity (~18%), as well as a higher apparent porosity (~6%) and water absorption (~9%) compared with those without expanded vermiculite at a given FA content and NaOH concentration. The findings of this study suggest that incorporating expanded vermiculite in FA-based geopolymer mortar can provide eco-friendly and lightweight building composites with improved sound and thermal insulation properties, contributing toward the reduction of the environmental effects of waste materials and conservation of natural sand.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1917
Number of pages18
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2021


  • Expanded vermiculite
  • Fly ash
  • Geopolymer
  • Strength
  • Thermal conductivity
  • Ultrasound pulse velocity


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