Micro-Fracture of Cementitious Material

Cementitious material is the most widely used construction material in the world. The material can sustain substantial loads due to its high compressive strength but is vulnerable to cracks due to its quasi-brittle nature. It is estimated that around 5% of global CO2 emissions are caused by cement production alone. Improving the mechanical properties of cementitious material can help increase the durability of cement and reduce the amount of usage, thus reducing the demand for production. The main composition of cement at nanoscale is the C-S-H, a major product of cement hydration, which is made up of a porous network of calcium silicate chains. C-S-H makes up over 60% of cement paste and is the main binding phase in cement, providing the engineering properties.

The aim of this research is to study the mechanical properties C-S-H at the nanoscale. As a starting point, this study attempts to develop a method for calculating the Young’s Modulus of C-S-H by applying an external pressure to the system to induce small levels of elastic deformation. If a relationship can be established at the nanoscale then targeted synthesis towards an optimum structure can lead to stronger cementitious materials. Once initial findings can be clarified, this investigation aims to elucidate the fundamental relationship between the atomic structure and the mechanical properties of C-S-H and aid the development of tougher and more sustainable cement.

For more information about the project contact Dr Shangtong Yang (shangtong.yang [at] strath [dot] ac [dot] uk), Lecturer at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Strathclyde.

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