SLAGREEF: Solutions for the 3D manufacture of marine biotopes through steel slag recycling

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20/12/2021

Climate change is dramatically affecting coastal zones. Storms are altering beaches and urban installations on the coastline, producing serious damage to marine ecosystems caused by pollution. 

In this regard, the establishment of artificial reefs has been found to be an effective technology to protect the coastline and restore the damaged ecosystems. The materials that are used to construct artificial reefs include rocks, ash blocks or even old wood and tyres. Today, several companies are specialised in the design, manufacture and deployment of long-lasting artificial reefs that tend to be constructed with limestone, steel and concrete. 

Currently, some waste materials are causing a great environmental problem. This is the case of waste such as slag that is generated in steel production. It is also the case of the millions of tonnes of dust, sand and gravel that are generated in quarries and cannot be sold. This waste ends up in landfill, which worsens the environmental problem. 

White slag (waste from secondary metallurgy, also called the refining stage, during steel production) cannot be used in the construction industry, mainly due to its low structural strength. Instead, it is possible to develop a concrete mix from this waste that can be used in 3D manufacturing on a large scale to produce artificial reefs. 

In this context, the Technological Development Centre for Remote Acquisition and Data Processing Systems (SARTI) and the CATMech group of the UPC are participating in the SLAGREEF project (3D slag concrete manufacturing solutions for marine biotopes). SLAGREEF proposes the use of a slag-concrete compound obtained from waste from the Spanish steel production industry. This compound can be used to produce a mix that can be 3D printed at large scale. 

SARTI’s contribution is focused on the development of advanced ecological monitoring systems and methods of simulation and statistical analysis for assessing the potential of artificial reefs in the OBSEA submarine observatory. CATMech will research the ideal composition of the mix that will then be 3D printed for the construction of artificial biotopes

 

Expected results

A new material will be developed, formed of concrete with aggregates of slag from the steel industry and limestone waste from quarries. This material will enable artificial reefs to be produced for marine biotopes. The subaquatic behaviour of the submerged structure will be monitored through new technologies that do not have an impact on the ecosystems, such as video cameras and environmental sensors. 

In this way, the following will be achieved:

  • Address a circular economy solution for slag from furnaces and quarry waste.
  • Promote automation of 3D printing on a large scale and digital solutions.
  • Develop new seabed structures that are compatible with advanced ecological monitoring systems, and tools for assessing the potential of artificial reefs in restoration. 
  • Protect costal environments from climate change. 

 

Budget and funding

The total budget for the project is €189,520, funded by the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness. SLAGREEF started in December 2022 and will end in November 2024.


 
 

Installation of the OBSEA of the UPC.


 
 

Facilities for 3D printing of the UPC.


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