The Advanced Photon Source
a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility

Construction Materials & Geopolymers

Concrete is the most prevalent building material on the planet, and the global concrete industry emits around 5-8% of all human-generated atmospheric CO2. A class of alkali-activated concrete binders known as "geopolymers" provide an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional cements. Alkali activation technology offers reduced CO2 emission by 80-90% relative to ordinary Portland cement, and is primarily based around the use of industrial wastes and clay, including fly ash, granulated ground blast furnace slag and metakaolin, as precursors. While highly promising for "green" construction materials, several crucial aspects of geopolymer structure are not yet well understood at the nanoscale, in particular, the role of metallic impurities and the possibility of toxin release from reused waste material into the environment. The interesting length scale for these composite materials is a few 10s of nanometers. Our research explores these materials primarily by the use of high-resolution x-ray fluorescence and tomography.
Selected Publications