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Novel routes for manufacturing low carbon cements

Project Description

Global population growth, and the increased need for infrastructure, has doubled since 1990 the worldwide demand for Portland cement (PC), which is the main binder used in almost all concretes. PC production now accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions, and this could increase to as much as 24% worldwide by 2050.

One low-CO2 alternative to PC in concretes is the class of materials known as alkali-activated cements or concretes, usually produced by chemical reaction of two components: aluminosilicates (precursor) derived from industrial by-products or natural minerals, and an alkali source (activator). These materials have the potential to offer carbon emissions savings of 40-80% compared to PC, for a performance-equivalent concrete.

This PhD research project aims to identify alternative manufacturing routes for the successful activation of raw materials which are not yet widely used for producing low carbon cements, and the identification of the mix design factors that control kinetics of reaction, workability and microstructure evolution.

This will be achieved by identifying suitable chemical, mechanical o thermal treatments yielding high reactivity of the raw materials, particularly focusing on mechano-chemical or mechano-thermal activation of precursors, with the aim to produce reactive powders that will harden once combined with water (so called one-part alkali-activated cements). The phase evolution of the cements during and after hardening for an extended period of curing (min to years) will be monitored through high-resolution analytical techniques (e.g. X-ray diffraction, thermogravimetry, scanning electron microscopy, and others).

The activities of this PhD research project are linked to the EPSRC Early Career Fellowship Research programme MUSE - Multi-scale Engineering of Alkali-Activated Concretes for Sustainable Infrastructure - and will be conducted in the UKCRIC National Centre for Infrastructure Materials at the University of Leeds.

Funding Notes

Funding covers the cost of fees and provides a maintenance matching the Research Council UK rate (£15,009 for 2019/20). UK applicants will be eligible for a full award paying tuition fees and maintenance. European Union applicants will be eligible for an award paying tuition fees only, except in exceptional circumstances, or where residency has been established for more than 3 years prior to the start of the course.

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