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Engineered Calcium-Silicate-Hydrates for Applications

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ERICA (Engineered Calcium-Silicate-Hydrates for Applications)

Reporting period: 2017-11-01 to 2019-10-31

ERICA stands for engineered calcium-silicate-hydrates for applications. Inorganic hydrates, such as C-S-H, are used in applications from construction to dentistry. In every case, there is need to optimise the hydrate properties for the application. More reactive cements are needed to lower the CO2 impact of construction. Dentistry needs dental cements with improved mechanical stability. The traditional way to improve hydrates is by trial and error. This is ineffective. ERICA offers a transformative materials science approach based on gaining detailed understanding of the associated nano-science. ERICA seeks coherent understanding and control of hydrate nucleation and growth as a means to control properties; of the first water sorption cycle when hydrates undergo structural change the consequences of which for performance are only just becoming apparent; and of water transport in hydrates that severely impacts degradation. To do this ERICA exploits recent developments in understanding of hydrate chemistry, in 1H NMR relaxometry and in numerical modeling. Success with ERICA will (i) give industry ways to target design hydrates; (ii) create numerical software tools to model hydrate performance; and (iii) leave good practice and know-how to adopt emergent methods. ERICA trains 13 multi-disciplinary researchers: ESRs ready to find employment with cement product manufacturers, instrumentation manufacturers, in numerical
modeling and in academia. This cohort is much needed by industry. The ESRs receive comprehensive academic and transferable skills training comprised of residential schools, workshops, peer learning and industry secondments. Training and dissemination are delivered in collaboration with the industry-academic cement science network: NANOCEM. Courses will be made into MOOCs. ERICA is led by 4 universities and an international cement manufacturer. It is supported by 5 Partner companies.

ERICA is a collaboration between researchers from the University of Surrey, UK, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, Alma Mater Studiorium Universita do Bologna, Italy, Technische Universität Wien, Austria and HeidelbergCement Technology Centre, Germany as well as several other partner industrial companies.
The objectives of ERICA will be achieved through the individual research projects carried out by a cohort of 13 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) organised across 8 work packages (WPs) focused on management and scientific tasks, with 9 milestones and 32 deliverables.

The 4 milestones and 14 deliverables due to the end of reporting period 1 (31/10/2019) have been achieved successfully. These include 9 deliverables covering management aspects of the project, such as researcher recruitment, setting up a website (with both public-facing and consortium-only areas), continuous reporting of progress to the EC, confirming compliance with ethics requirements, and constituting management mechanisms for external oversight both by the EC Project Officer and an international scientific advisory panel. The 5 research deliverables represent the timely achievement of early stages of the science programme, including reports on progress with the growth and nano-structure characterisation and modelling of hydrate materials, description of a magnetic resonance probe built for spatio-temporal studies, a report on hydrate characterisations by 1H NMR and conventional methods, delivery of software based on a molecular scale model, and a report on water transport in cement agglomerates.

Project management and coordination is led by the University of Surrey with additional support from EPFL. The Coordinator’s responsibilities include day-to-day running of the network, oversight of management matters relating to the ESR cohort, organisation of consortium meetings, continuous and periodic technical and financial reporting via the EC Participant Portal and liaising with the EC Project Officer.

From a pool of over 200 international applicants, the cohort of 13 ESRs were recruited to ERICA and were in post by the end of the first 12 months of the project. The group comprises 6 female and 7 male researchers, all originally from different countries within and outside the EU and with a wide range of experience of studying and working in other countries before joining us. The diversity of our ESR cohort is certainly in the spirit of researcher mobility, which is a key aspect of the MSC-ITN scheme.

The professional development of the Early Stage Researchers is of paramount importance within the ITN scheme. The ERICA ESRs receive career development support both within their host organisations and at the ERICA network-level through provision of the training schools and workshops. A programme of industry placements and periods of secondment within the consortium partner organisation will be undertaken by individuals during the first half of 2020 to augment the skills training and knowledge available to them locally.

Six residential schools and four knowledge exchange workshops focused on specific research skills/techniques and career development topics have been organised to date. Further training events are organised in 2020 and plans are already well underway for the project’s open dissemination conference in early 2021.

It is a requirement that ESRs should disseminate their research through participation in scientific conferences and peer-reviewed publications. All ESRs have now reached the stage of submitting their work to conferences and journals and will continue to do so at an increasing rate as their projects develop.

Each ESR, either individually or within a small group, is required to undertake an outreach/impact project. After formal outreach training during a Training School in February 2019, the ESRs have been carrying out their planned outreach activities over the Summer. These are designed to provide legacy material for the project and include presentations and demonstrations of science relevant to ERICA to audiences of school students, often carried out in the ESR’s home town.

A public project website has been established at https://www.erica-etn.eu. A restricted area is available to all Beneficiaries and Partners (access on
By the end of project, it is expected that we will have gained the understanding needed to design hydrate materials for specific applications.
ERICA ESRs with a group of school students at outreach session, Univ. of Surrey, UK, 25 July 2019