Pinoy scientist develops cement substitute

GN Power Kauswagan, a coal-fired power plant in Lanao del Norte as of March 2018. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 April) – A Filipino scientist has developed a substitute product for cement made from the wastes of coal-fired power plants which he described as eco-friendly because it will minimize the emission of carbon dioxide.

Dr. Michael Angelo B. Promentilla, a delegate to the 2nd ASEAN Science Diplomat Assembly from April 23 to 27 at the Ritz Hotel here, said in an interview on Monday that he developed “geo-polymer” to upscale coal ash from coal-fired power plants.

Pomentilla, a professor at the Dela La Salle University, said the construction industry in the country has a high demand for cement but the “production of cement requires a lot of energy and produces carbon dioxide as well.”

“My project would try to address this problem by trying to really use the ‘fly ash’ alone without using the Portland cement. What we are trying to do is to utilize the wastes from coal-fired power plants to produce a material comparable to Portland cement,” he explained.

He said geo-polymer, patterned after a similar technology created by eco-friendly companies in France, Australia, and the US, seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of the cement industry and prevent future problems in managing coal ash.

Pomentilla, who obtained his doctorate degree in socio-environmental engineering from Hokkaido University in Japan, said they are still in the research and development stage but they plan to do a field-scale testing a year from now and hope to commercialize geo-polymer in five years.

Dr. Michael Angelo Pomentilla. Photo courtesy of Mindanao Development Authority

He said they hope to build low-cost houses or even road embankments using geo-polymer.

From the extraction of the raw material, he said the process of making cement begins with crushing the limestone and then calcination, which requires a temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius.

“The cooking process requires a lot of energy because of the high temperature, normally 1,000 degrees Celsius. Where does it come from? Normally, there is fuel and usually coal is being used. If you burn it, you release another carbon dioxide,” he said.

He said every ton of cement produced means the emission of the same amount of carbon dioxide but that his technology can convert a low-value waste to a high value product.

“If you can reduce the energy or try to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, that’s one way to mitigate climate change,” he said.

Promentilla said his project was undertaken with financial support from the ASEAN University Network/Southeast Asia Engineering Education Network – Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the National Academy of Science and Technology/Department of Science and Technology Grants to Outstanding Achievement in Science and Technology, and the numerous collaborators from DLSU Gokongwei College of Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and Ho Chi Minh University of Technology.

He opened his laboratory in 2014 and started the Geo-polymer and Advance Materials Engineering Research for Sustainability.

At least 16 scientists from all over Southeast Asia joined the 2nd ASEAN Science Diplomat Assembly themed “Empowering Science and Technology Leaders for Climate Smart ASEAN.”

Organized by the Environmental and Climate Research Institute of the Dela Salle Araneta University, the Mindanao Development Authority, and the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Association of the Philippines, the five-day assembly aims to gather outstanding scientists and engineers in the ASEAN region who will be trained in language communication in the context of climate change and energy.

A briefer released by MinDA said the assembly aims to enhance regional and international cooperation to address the issues of climate change and its impact on socio-economic development, health, and the environment through the implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures, training, and capacity building.

It also seeks to address communication gaps for effective implementation of programs addressing problems in climate change, food security, water sufficiency, and sustainable energy. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)