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Testing Geopolymer Performance in a Geothermal Exchange System (In Progress)

Description

An Illinois Energy Farm building with a geothermal exchange system will test a new, unique building material in the floor slab. Geopolymers, concrete-like alternatives, are a more eco-friendly building material. This research will assess the geopolymer-based construction materials performance in a structure using geothermal energy.

A geothermal exchange system heat and cools a structure. Illinois is studying the use of geothermal energy in other areas of campus as a viable power source (see project at top of page).  

Purpose of the Work: Campus Connection

This specific project — seed-funded by iSEE in early 2019 — will discover the feasibility of using geopolymers with geothermal energy for residential and commercial structures. This study at the Illinois Energy Farm will investigate the suitability of geopolymers for temperature control and foundation support.   

Background

This project will investigate the feasibility of using geopolymers in geothermal exchange systems for residential and commercial applications. A geothermal exchange system utilizes the earth as a heat source in the winter and a heat sink in the summer. This will be one of the first geothermal exchange systems on campus, and a novel application of geopolymers within the proposed Living Laboratory (LL) at the Energy Farm (see below) to enhance thermal exchange. Phase 1 of this project involves using geopolymers in the floor slab of a greenhouse area in the LL to improve the thermal transfer from the geothermal loops installed in the slab and the ambient environment in the greenhouse. Geopolymers are chemically bonded ceramics that have the potential to replace concrete and provide better thermal exchange and a more environmentally friendly construction material because of the significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage during its production.

Project Team

  • Team Members:

    • Timothy Stark, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    • Waltraud M. Kriven, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
    • Mark S. Taylor, Associate Professor of Architecture
    • Yun Kyu Yi, Assistant Professor of Architecture
    • Andrew Stumpf, Associate Geologist at the Illinois State Geological Survey, a Division of the Prairie Research Institute
    • Yu-Feng Forrest Lin, Director of the Illinois Water Resources Center

Themes