Cement is widely used as a binder in building materials like concrete for infrastructures ranging from houses to bridges and roads. During cement manufacture, pollutants and carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, potentially creating an environmental hazard. The EU-funded TRANSCEND (Understanding transport for concrete which is eco friendly innovative and durable) project aimed to train young researchers in cement chemistry and engineering to ultimately develop new eco-friendly cement-like materials. For cement to be durable, it needs to withstand varying environmental conditions, from being submerged in water to standing in the harsh desert sun. Of all environmental factors, water flowing through cracks in concrete is the most damaging and the cause of almost all degradation. By understanding the effects of water transport in cements and concretes, scientists can design tests to predict concrete degradation. This will enable the construction industry to introduce new, more sustainable cements into their building materials. TRANSCEND brought together 12 universities, four research institutions and seven industrial partners to better understand water transport using computer modelling and lab experiments. Young researchers developed models to calculate common characteristics of concrete. These included, for example, numerical models of water wetting and drying fronts in cement pastes. Other young researchers performed lab experiments to characterise properties such as porosity and cracks at various temperatures and relative humidities. All partners shared their expertise to characterise cement structure and chemical composition in ultra-fine detail. They did this using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), which distinguishes compound compositions at an atomic level. NMR results were used to create new models for evaluating cement parameters such as permeability, and for characterising industrially useful new materials. In providing a better picture of water transport in cement, TRANSCEND has laid the foundation for the construction industry to develop durable, eco-friendly cements.
Eco-friendly, cement, water transport, concrete, building materials, degradation