A new white paper summarizes the first five years of research results from the Concrete Science Platform (CSP) of the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub. Concrete sustainability begins at the most fundamental level: understanding the molecular structure of cement paste—calcium-silicate-hydrate (C-S-H). The mechanisms that govern C-S-H’s hardness and cement powder’s reactivity to water occur at the nanoscale and have thus been challenging to study. Researchers in the CSP have created innovative, atomic-scale models of C-S-H that shed new light on its molecular dynamics.
The goal of these studies is to discover ways to make a more resilient concrete that lasts longer and requires fewer repairs over its use phase, and perhaps to reduce the amount of cement needed to make concrete. Both would reduce the material’s carbon footprint.
The CSP has been divided into three thrust areas: 1) dissolution, 2) precipitation, and 3) hardened paste. During the CSHub’s first five years, each of these areas has produced a new model, based on first principles, that fills a critical gap that has previously eluded scientists. The value of this type of model, in addition to being based on first scientific principles, is that it is flexible and can be used both to answer a huge array of questions at nano- to micro-scales directly, and to provide input for models that upscale to micro- to macro-scale engineering practice, such as the VCCTL model at NIST. View a PDF of the full report.