The reuse of fly ash as an engineering material primarily stems from its pozzolanic nature, spherical shape, and relative uniformity. Fly ash recycling, in descending frequency, includes usage in:

 Portland cement

Owing to its pozzolanic properties, fly ash is used as a replacement for some of the Portland cement content of concrete. The use of fly ash as a pozzolanic ingredient was recognized as early as 1914, although the earliest noteworthy study of its use was in 1937. Before its use was lost to the Dark Ages, Roman structures such as aqueducts or the Pantheon in Rome used volcanic ash (which possesses similar properties to fly ash) as pozzolan in their concrete. As pozzolan greatly improves the strength and durability of concrete, the use of ash is a key factor in their preservation.

Use of fly ash as a partial replacement for Portland cement is generally limited to Class F fly ashes. It can replace up to 30% by mass of Portland cement, and can add to the concrete’s final strength and increase its chemical resistance and durability. Recently concrete mix design for partial cement replacement with High Volume Fly Ash (50 % cement replacement) has been developed. For Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC)[used in dam construction] replacement values of 70% have been achieved with POZZOCRETE (processed fly ash) at the Ghatghar Dam project in Maharashtra, India. Due to the spherical shape of fly ash particles, it can also increase workability of cement while reducing water demand. The replacement of Portland cement with fly ash is considered by its promoters to reduce the greenhouse gas "footprint" of concrete, as the production of one ton of Portland cement produces approximately one ton ofCO2 as compared to zero CO2 being produced using existing fly ash. New fly ash production, i.e., the burning of coal, produces approximately twenty to thirty tons of CO2 per ton of fly ash. Since the worldwide production of Portland cement is expected to reach nearly 2 billion tons by 2010, replacement of any large portion of this cement by fly ash could significantly reduce carbon emissions associated with construction, as long as the comparison takes the production of fly ash as a given.


Fly ash properties are somewhat unique as an engineering material. Unlike typical soils used for embankment construction, fly ash has a large uniformity coefficient consisting of silt-sizedparticles. Engineering properties that will affect fly ash’s use in embankments include grain size distribution, compaction characteristicsshear strengthcompressibilitypermeability, andfrost susceptibility. Nearly all fly ash used in embankments are Class F fly ashes.

Soil stabilization

Soil stabilization involves the addition of fly ash to improve the engineering performance of a soil. This is typically used for a soft, clayey subgrade beneath a road that will experience many repeated loadings. Improvement can be done with both Class C and Class F fly ashes. If using a Class F fly ash, an additive (such as lime or cement) is needed whereas the self-cementing nature of Class C fly ash allows it to be used alone.

Flowable fill

Fly ash is also used as a component in the production of flowable fill (also called controlled low strength material, or CLSM), which is used as self-leveling, self-compacting backfill material in lieu of compacted earth or granular fill. The strength of flowable fill mixes can range from 50 to 1,200 lbf/in² (0.3 to 8.3 MPa), depending on the design requirements of the project in question. Flowable fill includes mixtures of Portland cement and filler material, and can contain mineral admixtures. Fly ash can replace either the Portland cement or fine aggregate (in most cases, river sand) as a filler material. High fly ash content mixes contain nearly all fly ash, with a small percentage of Portland cement and enough water to make the mix flowable. Low fly ash content mixes contain a high percentage of filler material, and a low percentage of fly ash, Portland cement, and water. Class F fly ash is best suited for high fly ash content mixes, whereas Class C fly ash is almost always used in low fly ash content mixes.

Asphalt concrete

Asphalt concrete is a composite material consisting of an asphalt binder and mineral aggregate. Both Class F and Class C fly ash can typically be used as a mineral filler to fill the voids and provide contact points between larger aggregate particles in asphalt concrete mixes. This application is used in conjunction, or as a replacement for, other binders (such as Portland cement or hydrated lime). For use in apshalt pavement, the fly ash must meet mineral filler specifications outlined in ASTM D242. The hydrophobic nature of fly ash gives pavements better resistance to stripping. Fly ash has also been shown to increase the stiffness of the asphalt matrix, improving rutting resistance and increasing mix durability.


More recently, fly ash has been used as a component in geopolymers, where the reactivity of the fly ash glasses is used to generate a binder comparable to a hydrated Portland cement in appearance and properties, but with dramatically reduced CO2 emissions.

Roller compacted concrete

Another application of using fly ash is in roller compacted concrete dams. Many dams in the US have been constructed with high fly ash contents. Fly ash lowers the heat of hydration allowing thicker placements to occur. Data for these can be found at the US Bureau of Reclaimation. This has also been demonstrated in the Ghatghar Dam Project in India.


In the United Kingdom fly ash has been used for over fifty years to make concrete building blocks. They are widely used for the inner skin of cavity walls. They are naturally more thermally insulating than blocks made with other aggregates.

Ash bricks have been used in house construction in Windhoek, Namibia since the 1970s. There is, however, a problem with the bricks in that they tend to fail or produce unsightly pop-outs. This happens when the bricks come into contact with moisture and a chemical reaction occurs causing the bricks to expand.

In May 2007, Henry Liu, a retired 70-year old American civil engineer, announced that he had invented a new, environmentally sound building brick composed of fly ash and water. Compressed at 4,000 psi and cured for 24 hours in a 150 °F (66 °C) steam bath , then toughened with an air entrainment agent, the bricks last for more than 100 freeze-thaw cycles. Owing to the high concentration of calcium oxide in class C fly ash, the brick can be described as "self-cementing". The manufacturing method is said to save energy, reduce mercury pollution, and costs 20% less than traditional clay brick manufacturing. Liu intends to license his technology to manufacturers in 2008. Bricks of fly ash can be made of two types. One type of brick are made mixing it with about equal amount of soil and proceeding through the ordinary process of making brick. This type of formation reduces the use of fertile sand in making bricks.

Another type of brick can be made by mixing soil, plaster of paris and fly ash in a definite proportion with water and allowing the mixture to dry. Because it does not need to be heated in a furnace this technique reduces air pollution.

Waste management

Fly ash, and its alkalinity, may be used to process human waste sludge into fertilizer.

Similarly, the Rhenipal process uses fly ash as an admixture to stabilize sewage and other toxic sludges. This process has been used since 1996 to stabilize large amounts ofchromium(VI) contaminated leather sludges in Alcanena, Portugal.