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  Corrosion of reinforcing steel embedded within low carbon cement concretes made without Portland cement

   Department of Civil Engineering

  Dr Bahman Ghiassi,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Corrosion of reinforcing steel in conventional Portland Cement (PC)-based concretes exposed in challenging environments is a common problem, leading to cracking and spalling and its repair is a big cost to the UK economy. The mechanisms and causes of failure are quite well understood and can generally be dealt with through proper workmanship and design. Approximately 20 billion metric ton of concrete is being produced every year [1]. Thus, production of cement for concrete is contributing approx. 8% of global CO2 emissions i.e. one tonne of PC produces on average 0.86 tonnes of CO2 emissions [2]. Hence, there is a strong demand from designers, specifiers and their clients to use new low carbon cements in concrete to meet carbon saving agenda (including use in reinforced concrete). These are quite different in chemistry and mineralogy to PC and the mechanisms protecting the steel are less well understood. Examples are sulfoaluminate (CSA) and related cements (30% carbon savings due to lower manufacturing temperature and sulfate-rich composition [3]), and alkali activated cementitious materials (AACM, up to 80% carbon savings due to use of aluminosilicate industrial by products and alkaline chemical activator [4]).

High early strength specialist repair materials used in RC structures are often magnesia-phosphate based mortar, however full corrosion protection properties of these materials are still unknown.

Thus, there is an immediate need for research on corrosion mechanism, transport properties and repair principles for low carbon concretes with no PC.

The project aim is to investigate the corrosion protection mechanism of reinforcing steel embedded within low carbon cement concretes made without Portland cement (PC).

The objectives are:

• Gain an understanding between changes in the hardened phases and mechanisms of corrosion protection in representative CSA and AACM concretes

• Understanding of corrosion monitoring methods for these new cements

• Understanding of corrosion protection mechanism and repair principles for these new cements

• Gain an understanding of mechanisms that affect other properties of these cements in hardened concrete (such as transport properties and strength loss)

• To provide information that may be considered in updating existing guidance on corrosion from bodies such as BRE.

This work is expected to produce 2-3 high quality scientific papers to be published in high-impact journals (SJR ranking Q1). During the course of this project, you will have the opportunity to have access to, and receive training on, the most advanced and state-of-the-art testing laboratories. You will also collaborate with world-leading industrial partners of the project (i.e. ATKINS) and therefore get insight into current practical issues regarding reinforcement corrosion.

We are seeking an enthusiastic and highly motivated student with good interpersonal skills and a keen interest in research. You must have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honors degree or a distinction or high merit at MSc level (or international equivalent) in Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering or Materials science. The candidate will be expected to have good interpersonal skills with a teamwork spirit.

The project will be co-supervised by Dr Bahman Ghiassi, Dr Homayoon Pouya and Professor Essie Ganjian. 

Engineering (12)


1. Singh, L.P., Karade, S.R., Bhattacharyya, S.K., Yousuf, M.M. and Ahalawat, S. (2013) ‘Beneficial role of nanosilica in cement based materials–A review’ Construction and Building Materials, 47, 1069-1077.
2. Dunster, A, Quillin, K, Tipple, C, Albert, B, Comparet, C, Gartner, E and Walenta, G (2016) ‘Performance and durability of concrete made using lower carbon belite-ye' elimite-ferrite cement’ (BRE report)
3. Aether report (BRE published report) Cements with lower environmental impact BRE Information Paper IP 07/08 K Quillin (10-Jun-2008)
4. Provis, J and Deventer, J “Alkali Activated Materials: State-of-the-Art Report, RILEM TC 224-AAM”. - RILEM report on AACMs, Chapter 8- Durability and testing: Degradation vs mass transport, January 2014.
5. Angst, U.M. (2019) ‘Challenges and opportunities in corrosion of steel in concrete Materials and Structures, 52(1).
6. Koch, G., Varney, J, Thompson, N, Moghissi, O, Gould, M, Payer (2016) ‘International measures of prevention, application, and economics of corrosion technologies study’, NACE, 216.

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