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Life Cycle Assessment of Sustainable Cement

Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering

Sheffield United Kingdom Chemical Engineering Civil Engineering Environmental Engineering Geochemistry Inorganic Chemistry Materials Science

About the Project

Cement is the ‘glue’ in concrete, and provides the foundation on which modern civilisation is built. But this comes at a huge environmental cost - nearly half of all materials extracted from the Earth annually are used in concrete, and cement production alone accounts for 8% of human-caused CO2 emissions.

By replacing traditional Portland cement with low-CO2, alkali-activated or alkaline earth-activated cement (AAC/AEAC), we can reduce these CO2 emissions by more than 80%. However, uptake of these low-carbon cements within industry has been slow, due to variability in characteristics of raw materials, and difficulty controlling the reaction, setting and hardening processes, which govern performance.

The raw materials used are dictated by local availability, which results from local supply patterns, cost and transport logistics. The environmental and economic potential of these low-carbon cements depends heavily on cost, availability and suitability of the raw materials, and the needs of the end-user. Currently, understanding of the life cycle environmental and economic performance of these cements produced from commonly available raw materials is limited.

This cross-disciplinary PhD project aims to develop a new material chemistry circularity comparative framework for sustainable cement for construction and energy sectors. It will perform a hybrid life cycle analysis (LCA) of AAC/AEAC produced from both traditional and non-traditional raw materials, in a system defined in space and time, and compare the environmental and economic performance of these low-carbon cements against traditional Portland cement.

Using data of their material chemistry, mass, energy and transport sourced from industry partners, laboratory and the literature, the life cycle environmental impact and carbon cost of these low-carbon cements will be produced. It will model future scenario of AAC and hence forecast their impact towards Net Zero 2050 considering economy, geography, capacity, technology, energy and policy revolutions.

Based in the Departments of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and the Management School, the successful candidate will be joining a team of multidisciplinary researchers of the Energy Institute at The University of Sheffield to develop research and innovation for decarbonisation. Energy Institute at The University of Sheffield, UK is where the brightest minds come together to build a sustainable, secured and greener world. It is the largest Energy Institute in Europe which provides a platform for breakthrough research and innovation collaboration and partnership across industry sectors and government policies, addressing global energy resources and climate change challenges. Its transformational research and innovation bring the biggest social, environmental and economic impact for people and planet.

The successful candidate will join the Sustainable Materials at Sheffield and Cements@Sheffield research teams, and benefit from being a member of a friendly and collegial group with world-leading expertise and facilities. The Sustainable Materials at Sheffield group (in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering) and the Cements@Sheffield group (in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering) are world-leading research teams, located in highly-rated and very successful departments, building from over 100 years of history in cements research at Sheffield. We investigate interesting and important cements and related materials for applications in infrastructure and nuclear sectors, publish our work in the leading journals and conferences in the field, and take great pride in the fact that alumni have gone on to the highest levels of success in both academia and industry.

Read our recent article published in The Conversation: Sustainable cement: the simple switch that could massively cut global carbon emissions

The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and the Management School, rank among the top in the UK, and have among the highest levels of research income.

Start Date of Studentship: 27th September 2021

Please see this web link for information on how to apply and access the Postgraduate Online Application Form:

Funding Notes

This is a funded EPSRC DTP PhD studentship. The funding covers the cost of tuition fees and provides an annual tax-free stipend for 3.5 years at the standard UK research rate (£15,609 in 2021/22). The studentship is available for a student from the United Kingdom or from the European Union with 3 years residency in the UK. Please see this link for information on how to apply: View Website. Please include the name of your proposed supervisor and the title of the PhD project within your application.


Applicants should have a first or upper second class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline (Chemical/Materials/Environmental/Civil Engineering, Materials/Inorganic Chemistry or Mineralogy/Geochemistry). A strong undergraduate background in chemical/materials engineering, with an interest in driving sustainability is desired. The applicant should have been educated to degree level through the medium of English or have IELTS as detailed below.
If English is not your first language then you must have an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) average of 6.5 or above with at least 6.0 in each component, or equivalent. Please see this link for further information:

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