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Speaker: Dr. Ange-Therese Akono, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University
Abstract: According to a 2021 United Nations report, the Earth is warming at its fastest rate in 2,000 years and the global temperature will rise by 1.5℃ by 2030. This latest report is an urgent call to action to slow down climate change by drastically curbing man-made greenhouse gas emissions. An essential step in that direction is to reduce the carbon footprint of concrete. Although concrete is the most consumed material on Earth after water, it carries a significant carbon footprint, as the synthesis of one ton of cement—an essential component of concrete—releases one ton of carbon dioxide. As a result, the cement industry accounts for 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Thus, designing greener and tougher cement is crucial to the promotion of sustainable development. In this talk, I will investigate the potential of nanomaterials and nanotechnology to reduce the carbon footprint of cement. Specifically, I will show recent work by my group that employs experimental nanomechanics and advanced nanocomposite synthesis to study the influence of nanomaterials on the chemistry, microstructure, and mechanical performance of cement. We found that carbon-based nanomaterials, such as graphene nanoplatelets or carbon nanotubes, reinforce cement directly at the molecular level by connecting hydrated cement grains. Thanks to their highly reactive surface area, nanomaterials accelerate cement hydration, leading to the refinement of the pore structure. In turn, nanomaterials alter the fundamental constitution of cement by promoting the growth of high-density calcium silicate hydrates. These fundamental changes resulted in a 30% increase in strength and toughness and a 37% decrease in porosity and water absorption in nanoreinforced cement. Thus, our work paves the way toward the enhanced performance of nanoreinforced concrete accompanied by a reduced carbon footprint that will promote sustainable development.
Bio: Dr. Akono is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University. She holds a PhD and an MSc from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) and an MSc from the École Polytechnique (France). Dr. Akono’s honors include the ASCE Leonardo da Vinci Award (2021), the Royal Society Invited Symposium Participant (2020), and the ASCE New Faces of Civil Engineering Professionals Award (2016). Dr. Akono is the director of the Sustainability and Nanomechanics Laboratory, and her research group investigates fracture events in complex materials, focusing on geological materials, high-performance structural materials, and biomaterials.
All seminars are held on Wednesdays from 12:00 noon-1:00 p.m. in the Bowen Hall Auditorium Room 222. A light lunch is provided at 11:30 a.m. in the Bowen Hall Atrium immediately prior to the seminar.
- Princeton Center for Complex Materials (PCCM)
- Princeton Institute for the Science & Tech of Materials (PRISM)