Blessing Adeleke’s civil engineering PhD investigated the use of MgO-waste (magnesium oxide) and industrial by-product materials in construction. His research underpinned a commercial consultancy contract from Spain on developing a MgO-based binder.
To address climate change, there is an urgent need to reduce CO2 emissions and develop innovative, cost-effective and sustainable alternatives to traditional cement-based technology and applications.
The manufacture of Portland Cement, as an example, is one of the most energy intensive industrial manufacturing processes and responsible for up to 10% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions worldwide.
Urban development has not only led to an increase in demand for Portland cement but the significant generation of waste that poses serious environmental and health challenges.
Researchers at USW are driving research in soil-based alternatives to cementation, and Blessing's PhD explored the use of wastes and industrial by-products in building and construction materials.
Blessing investigated four different types of MgO-wastes from Spain to establish which could be used as activators to Ground Granulated Blast-furnace Slag (GGBS), a by-product from the blast-furnaces manufacturing steel.
The results showed that the MgO-activated GGBS stabilisers were effective in stabilising natural high sulphate-bearing soils.
“A Spanish Gypsum Marl (GM) clay soil was successfully stabilised to strength values that can be adopted in industry, while at the same time achieving robustness to resist swelling,” said Professor John Kinuthia, Blessing’s doctoral supervisor, and head of the Advanced Materials Testing Centre (AMTeC).
"This allows a large marginal raw material resource to be exploited, and in a sustainable manner.”
Utilising in-situ soils and exploiting natural, industrial and/or agricultural waste streams instead of scarce, precious raw materials is in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, making the research impactful in a number of ways: it will mitigate the socio-economic and environmental concerns of using calcium-based binders; it will promote more sustainable techniques in construction; and provide greater insight into the stabilisation of soils containing high amounts of sulphate.
“The decision to study a PhD was to support the clarion call for sustainable development in engineering and construction,” said Blessing, who came to USW from Nigeria for his civil engineering degree.
“I chose USW because of its world class research and expertise in civil engineering, as well as its excellent facilities and close links with industry – all of which have been evidenced in my research.”
“I am proud to have achieved my doctorate. A PhD requires hard work and sacrifice not just from the researcher but from the families and loved ones too, so it is very rewarding to see it come to fruition."
Blessing’s PhD has supported his development both professionally and personally. In addition to his Chartered status as a professional engineer in Nigeria, the doctorate has supported him to become a Chartered Engineer (CEng) with the Engineering Council UK and a full member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (MICE).
It has also enabled his progression from research into academia.
“During my PhD, I had the opportunity to gain teaching experience and obtain a postgraduate teaching certification,” he said, "and I am now a lecturer in civil engineering."
"I plan to use my knowledge and expertise to be of value to the world - researching on areas of sustainability in built environment, and inspiring the next generation of civil engineers."