Comprehensive Analysis of Steel Slag as Aggregate for Road Construction: Experimental Testing and Environmental Impact Assessment

Materials (Basel). 2021 Jun 28;14(13):3587. doi: 10.3390/ma14133587.


Blast Oxygen Furnace (BOF) slag represents one of the largest waste fractions from steelmaking. Therefore, slag valorisation technologies are of high importance regarding the use of slag as a secondary resource, both in the steel sector and in other sectors, such as the construction or cement industries. The main issue regarding the use of BOF slag is its volumetric instability in the presence of water; this hampers its use in sectors and requires a stabilisation pre-treatment. These treatments are also cost-inefficient and cause other environmental issues. This paper analyses the use of untreated BOF slag from a technical and environmental point of view, suggesting it as an alternative to natural aggregates in road surface layers and asphalt pavements. A comprehensive analysis of the requirements to be met by raw materials used in asphalt mixes was performed, and a pilot test was carried out with two different mixtures: one mix with limestone as coarse aggregate and another with 15% BOF slag. Furthermore, the global warming impacts derived from each mix with different aggregates were measured by Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), and a transport sensitivity analysis was also performed. The results show how the utilization of BOF slag as coarse aggregate in road construction improves the technical performance of asphalt mixtures (Marshall Quotient 4.9 vs. 6.6). Moreover, the introduction of BOF slag into the asphalt mix as a coarse aggregate, instead of limestone, causes a carbon emissions reduction rate of more than 14%.

Keywords: circular economy; experimental testing; life cycle assessment; recycled materials; road materials; steel slag.