The environmental and economic benefits of using fly ash aggregates in concrete admixtures are well documented with adoption continually growing across industry[1].   The critical factor in managing this abundantly available waste from coal fired power plants is in converting it on-site at the lowest cost to both the materials processors and for sale to end users.  The best way to cut processing costs is to lower capital equipment costs and increase efficiencies in production.  Lancaster Products has successfully worked  with Nometrain Pty. Ltd. from Queensland, Australia, to develop processes with a Lancaster High Shear Counter-Current Mixer to produce granulated Cold Set Ceramic products.  This Cold Set Ceramic process uses a chemical reaction to cure the fly ash into a ceramic product  which eliminates the need for kilns commonly used to fire fly ash agglomerates after they are pelletized in our high shear mixers.  Nometrain has developed an environmentally safe, proprietary process that utilizes chemicals instead of water with the fly ash mix which “cures at ambient temperatures to produce a matrix with exceptional early green strength, and which cures over time[2].”  This revolutionary process does away with the need  for kiln firing eliminating an additional piece of expensive equipment and greatly reduces the energy costs typically associated with the firing of fly ash agglomerates.  The partnership with Lancaster Products has allowed Nometrain the ability to utilize the Lancaster Mixer to create  agglomerates of varying sizes at 90+% yields in an extremely short mix cycle.

The ability for materials processors to control the size of pelletized fly ash directly in the mixing process opens the door to a host of diversified markets such as lightweight, specialty concrete used in flowable fill.  “Concrete using Nometrain Aggregates is less costly to manufacture, lighter weight, is a more effective use of cement, and concrete made with the Nometrain process is lighter in weight than concrete made using expanded shale aggregates.[3]”  But this is only possible if the machinery that processes the mix can consistently produce the specified roundness and small size required for specialty concrete at high yields.  The collaboration with the engineering staff at Lancaster Products has proven that running the materials in our high shear counter-current mixers meets their requirements while reducing typical mix cycle times.

This is yet another example of the many ways in which Lancaster Products’ high shear mixers are being utilized to blur the lines between industry and a more sustainable environment.  The Cold Set Ceramic Process allows an efficient and cost effective way to turn environmentally harmful waste into a usable product revenue stream.  Recycling fly ash through this cold set process contains contaminants on-site and allows power plants to potentially eliminate the need and risks associated with storing and transporting residual fly ash.  The lower cost aggregates produced not only decrease operating costs of coal fired power plants, but also drive down the cost of specialty lightweight concrete and ultimately contributes to environmental sustainability.


Do you have an idea for a specialty application for material processing but can’t seem to find the right process to make it work?  Contact our engineers today to discuss how high shear mixers from Lancaster Products can solve your problem.


[1] U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration:



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The Effect of Rotor Styles on High Shear Mixing

In addition to the rotating pan, all high shear mixers manufactured by Lancaster Products larger than a K3.5 have two independently motor driven mixing tools inside the pan which are responsible for proper mixing, pelletizing, and granulating of materials: the plow and the high speed rotor.  The plow continually sweeps the entire surface of the pan bottom to prevent material from accumulating on the bottom and enhances the overall mixing action.  However, the most important tool of all is the high-speed rotor, which rotates counter direction to the pan causing a shearing action inside of the mixing cavity.  This high-speed rotor not only agitates the mixture, but significantly influences the control of the entire process.  While there are just two main style of standard rotors, we can custom configure the rotor to optimize all mixing processes.

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Infographic: Optimize Your Fertilizer Pelletizing Process

Traditional processes for manufacturing fertilizer require many steps and different types of equipment. It is common for systems to include multiple dryers, a mill/pulverizer for size reduction of dried material, pin mixer/pug mill for mixing of additives and raw materials, a pelletizer and multiple conveyors to facilitate the process. If this seems like a complex process that requires high levels of work, energy and maintenance, we agree.

Lancaster Products engineers can optimize existing complex fertilizer pelleting processes or design new streamlined systems to help you realize multiple benefits, including a reduction in physical footprint and an improvement in the characteristics and reproducibility of your pelletized product. By utilizing a Lancaster Products K-Series High Shear Mixer to replace a mill and disc pelletizer, you not only reduce system complexity but also gain the ability to begin processing with raw materials at higher moisture levels. The counter-current mixing action in a Lancaster Mixer allows for one-step mixing and pelletizing with rapid mix times.

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