Multi-scale engineering of alkali-activated concretes for sustainable infrastructure

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Civil Engineering

Abstract

Infrastructure is the foundation of the society and economy of every nation, and enables us to enjoy a high standard of living. Currently 3.5bn people live in urban areas, and this will continue to rise, particularly in developing countries, reaching 6.2bn people by 2050. The provision of infrastructure and housing poses great challenges to be resolved in the coming years, but also offers a unique opportunity to drive significant global change, with the development of cities and the improvement of living standards to eliminate poverty and promote social inclusion being essential for global economic growth.

The enormous amount of resources necessary to fulfil the world's infrastructure requirements, and the urgent need to mitigate climate change, mean that it is essential to move from traditional ways of providing infrastructure (which involve the use of cement, steel and other resources, and emit large volumes of CO2), to more sustainable ways. This will safeguard our future global society. The worldwide demand for Portland cement (a key component of concrete) has doubled in the past 10 years, to more than 4 billion tonnes per year, and this will continue to rise in the coming decades. This accounts for 8% of all worldwide CO2 emissions, and this could increase to as much as 25% by 2050. There is an urgent need for the UK, and the international community, to take up low-carbon best practices as we design and build infrastructure, so that significant reductions in carbon emissions can be achieved rapidly, and a shift towards a low-energy sustainable construction industry occurs.

This Early Career Fellowship research focuses on the design, characterisation and assessment of one of the most promising low-carbon candidates that can be used in place of Portland cement, to produce sustainable and durable concretes. These materials, called alkali-activated cements, can offer carbon emissions savings of 40-80% compared to Portland cement, when used to make a concrete with similar or better performance. However, despite this potential, the performance of alkali-activated materials in the field is unproven, and the processes that are now used for their production also face challenges that need to be resolved for the future-proofing of this technology. So, further research is urgently required to prove that these materials can be produced by sustainable processes using highly available resources, and then serve well under challenging conditions, over periods of decades or more. This particularly means that we must understand the ability of potentially damaging chemical species to move through alkali-activated cements (either through the material itself, or through any cracks which may form as the material shrinks or is damaged). This lies at the heart of the understanding of concrete durability, and requires the development of advanced modelling tools to predict the long-term performance of concretes that are made from these new cements, moving beyond the timescales that can be accessed in the laboratory to describe real-world performance.

The central aim of this Fellowship research is to provide the scientific basis for the use of the UK's natural resources, as well as by-products from other industries such as the production and processing of metals, to produce high-performance, high-durability alkali-activated concretes using conventional and/or novel processes. To achieve this, the Fellowship applicant and her team will use state of the art materials characterisation techniques to make connections between the way alkali-activated cements are produced, and their performance - moving the understanding 'from atoms to applications'. This will open a new pathway to building sustainable infrastructure for the future of the UK and worldwide, further strengthening the nation's current world-leading position in developing and using innovative cements, and opening opportunities for international connections and impact.

Planned Impact

The main beneficiary of this Fellowship research will be the construction industry, as this research will help remove barriers to the usage of alkali-activated cements and concrete in practical large-scale applications. Through partnership with the leading UK producer of alkali-activated/geopolymer cements, Banah UK, as well as European and global experts in waste valorisation, materials and construction technology such as FehS (Institut für Baustoff Forschung) and Zeobond Pty Ltd, impact will be optimised through direct transfer of results into application at all levels of the industry supply chain, from raw materials to finished products. Through partnership with these industry and commercial organisations, as well as the Swiss national laboratory EMPA (which is classified as an academic collaborator within the Fellowship research structure, but which nevertheless is extremely closely engaged with European and international industry), the Fellowship research results will be translated rapidly and effectively into state-of-the-art industry practice, in the UK and internationally.

The ability to accurately assess, predict and model the durability performance of alkali-activated cements and concretes, from a technically validated basis, will bring a very high degree of impact in both academic and industry circles. This information is the fundamental basis of performance-based standardisation, which are a crucial step to future development of standards enabling the use of innovative non-Portland cements in major infrastructure projects. The detailed modelling work which underpins this performance assessment will be disseminated through knowledge exchange workshops and direct engagement activities, including two specialised courses that will be delivered during the lifetime of the Fellowship research. The Fellowship team will also use these opportunities to gain input from partners and potential end-users regarding their priorities in terms of performance targets and key degradation mechanisms for in-service applications, and will incorporate this feedback into the modelling work. The specific data underpinning these models will be made available to the developers of the international databases CEMDATA (thermodynamic data for cementitious systems), and SCEnAT and Ecoinvent (international references in the field of life cycle analysis) for inclusion in these widely used database tools, to maximise accessibility of the information to academic and industrial communities working on development and implementation of sustainable construction materials.

The Pathways to Impact plan also targets both social and technical aspects of implementing outcomes from the research in highly populated emerging countries such as Brazil, South Africa, India and Thailand through the current participation of the Fellowship applicant in Global Challenges Research Fund programmes. This will maximise the global impact of the Fellowship research, and will enable to identify future strategies for the development and application of alkali-activated materials, in different geographical regions. The academic aspects of this dissemination will also be linked to two major events, where the Fellowship applicant is part of the organising and scientific committees: ECI Second International Geopolymers Conference, Tomar (Portugal), May 2018, and the RILEM Week and Annual Cement and Concrete Science Conference, Sheffield (UK), September 2020, hosted jointly by RILEM Association and the Cementitious Materials Group of IOM3.
 
Description Over the past 4 years of this fellowship programme great progress has been made establishing a new laboratory dedicated to the study of corrosion of steel embedded in concrete. My team and I have been instrumental in supporting the activities of UKCRIC Centre of Infrastructure Materials and Neville Centre of Excellence on Cement and Concrete, at University of Leeds, which has facilitated the development of collaborative research with other Schools within the University, and also has attracted new collaborations with industrialist and practitioners (e.g. National Highways, SCS Railway, ARUP, Sika, Wienerberger, Expedition among others). My team and I have synthesised low carbon cements, exploring alternative mix design to reduce carbon footprint, while controlling phase assemblage evolution. We are venturing in the next stages of the project developing novel manufacturing routes to produce low-carbon alkali-activated materials involving mechanical and thermal processes to produce reactive powders that will harden with water, similar to conventional cement. We have also made significant progress in identifying the right modelling tools to be applied to the materials produced, particularly to predict their potential durability. We have also put some efforts in developing the fundamental understanding of applicability of circular economy and other sustainability principals to our research, engaging our activities with those of the Transforming Foundation Industries Network+ and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Economy of Mineral-based Materials. Outcomes of our research have been presented in national and international events, as well as publications in peer-review journals. We have also developed several engagement activities, including outreach in publics schools, to create more awareness of the research we are developing and the importance of it.

During the last 12 months of the project our efforts have been centred in exploring the potential utilisation of low purity clays as potential resources for production of alkali-activated cements and evaluation of the sustainability credentials of these materials from a circular economy perspective.
Exploitation Route The research outcomes of this fellowship programme have been presented in national and international conferences, as well as in international specialised scientific committees to create awareness of the existence and success of my team, and also to demonstrate our capacity to deliver world-class research. In over the past two year we have dedicated significant efforts in increasing our engagement with general public/ business/ practitioners with very good acceptance. In the upcoming months my team and I will continue to nourish the new connections that we have developed with the aim of maximise the impact of the outcomes we are currently producing. Net-zero technologies are attracting great interest at present, and this is at the heart of this fellowship, so we will take advantage of this momentum.
Sectors Construction

 
Description This fellowship research enable the development of fundamental understanding on clay chemistry and treatments to increase their reactivity. This knowledge is being transferred to other projects aiming utilisation of such materials for producing blended Portland cements, including a collaboration with SCS Railways/ ARUP (HS2) for valorisation of waste arising from major excavation activities.
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Construction
 
Description Parliamentary Postbrief contribution
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to new or Improved professional practice
URL https://post.parliament.uk/research-briefings/post-pb-0044/#:~:text=Strategies%20to%20reduce%20the%2...
 
Description CMMI-EPSRC RENACEM: Response to CO2 exposure of concrete with natural supplementary cementitious materials
Amount £449,643 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/T008407/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2019 
End 07/2022
 
Description Design-for-manufacture of 3D concrete printed structural composites (DfM:3DCP)
Amount £577,525 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S019650/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2019 
End 06/2022
 
Description Maximising waste resources utilisation in future infrastructure development (WISE)/ Royal Society Exchanges 2019 Cost Share
Amount £11,400 (GBP)
Funding ID IEC\R2\192190 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2020 
End 01/2022
 
Description Novel Approach for Vital Infrastructure Post Disaster/ International Programmes - Urban Infrastructure for Well-Being
Amount £251,352 (GBP)
Funding ID UWB190207 
Organisation The British Academy 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2019 
End 11/2021
 
Description PERFoRM - Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship
Amount € 212,000 (EUR)
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 05/2019 
End 06/2021
 
Description Royal Charter International Research Award
Amount £8,000 (GBP)
Organisation BRE Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2020 
End 11/2020
 
Description Transforming the Foundation Industries: a Network+ Towards Value by Innovation
Amount £2,002,050 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/V026402/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2021 
End 12/2023
 
Description UKRI Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre For Mineral-based Construction Materials
Amount £4,430,346 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/V011820/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2021 
End 12/2024
 
Title Exploiting in-situ solid-state NMR spectroscopy to probe the early stages of hydration of calcium aluminate cement - data 
Description NMR spectra. 27Al direct excitation spectra recorded as a function of time during the reaction of calcium aluminate cement with water at 20°C. 27Al direct excitation spectra recorded as a function of time during the reaction of calcium aluminate cement with water at 60°C. The first 27Al MQMAS spectrum recorded during the reaction of calcium aluminate cement with water at 20°C. The last 27Al MQMAS spectrum recorded during the reaction of calcium aluminate cement with water at 20°C. The last 27Al MQMAS spectrum recorded during the reaction of calcium aluminate cement with water at 60°C. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Description Collaboration with Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM - Germany) 
Organisation BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing
Country Germany 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution My team and I provide expertise in the area of alkali-activated technology, particularly in the development of alternative manufacturing routes to produce alkali-activated cements. As an extension of our research activities in this area in collaboration with BAM it was studied the interaction of steel with these novel materials.
Collaborator Contribution Colleagues at BAM coordinated the activities of the European Federation of Corrosion Task Group 11 on corrosion of steels embedded in Alkali-Activated Materials. A review paper derived from the outcomes of this committee is currently under preparation.
Impact It is expected that the review paper derived from this collaboration is published in late 2022.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with Sika Ltd 
Organisation Sika Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution A new collaboration with Sika Ltd (one of the largests construction chemicals producers worldwide) has been initiated for the development of chemical additives to enable the increase of cement replacements usage in concrete production. This research will particularly focus on alternative blast furnace slag based cements including alkali-activated systems (main topic of this fellowship) as well as hybrid cements and supersulfated cements. This in an effort to develop the chemical solutions needed for resolving existing technical questions related to these alternative cements chemistries. My team and I will be providing insight knowledge in cementitious materials chemistry to this project sponsor by Innovate UK via the KTP programme.
Collaborator Contribution Sika Ltd is providing match funding for the development of this KTP project, as well as their insight knowledge in chemical admixtures and connections with their customers for the trialing of the technologies developed from this KTP.
Impact This collaboration formally commenced in February 2022, with the announcement of the successful KTP grant submission, so there are not outcomes derived from this collaboration yet.
Start Year 2022
 
Description Collaboration with Universidad de La Plata (Argentina) 
Organisation University of La Plata
Country Argentina 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution As part of an ongoing Royal Society Cost Share Exchanges grant with CONICET Argentina, iit was planned for my team and I to carry out regular visit to colleagues at Universidad de La Plata for knowledge exchange in technologies enabling maximise valorisation/ utilisation of construction demolition wastes for development of low carbon, durable and economical concrete in Argentina and elsewhere. During the first two year due to the pandemic situation, unfortunately none of the planned visits could take place, however the collaboration progressed and we are planning to carry out some of the visits later in 2022.
Collaborator Contribution Prof. Villagran was instrumental in the preparation of a grant that has been successfully funded by Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) in collaboration between U. Ghent (Belgium), U. Graz (Austria), PSI (Switzerland) and U. Leeds, for the development and assessment of recycled aggregate hybrid concretes. This has enabled to strengthen our research links and capitalise from the collaboration initiated through the Royal Society exchanges cost share grant.
Impact The collaboration has continued in a remote format and several collaborative activities were developed including: - Presentation in a panel discussion in the 'IX Congreso Internacional y 23a Reunion Tecnica de la Asociacion Argentina de Technologia del Hormigon (AATH)' - Joint journal article published in Resource, Recovery and Conservation. Samples sent by Prof. Villagran are currently being analysed at the University of Leeds.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with University of Bath 
Organisation University of Bath
Department Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A new collaboration with Dr Xinyuan Ke from University of Bath has been initiated for the development of thermodynamic and multi-physics modelling of alkali-activated materials. Dr Ke is acting as external supervisor of one of the PhD researchers based at U. Leeds that is linked to the fellowship research,
Collaborator Contribution Dr Ke is contributing her expertise in alkali-activated materials and modelling supporting some of the efforts of one of the PhD researchers based in Leeds and co-sponsored by this fellowship research.
Impact This is a new collaboration which we hope will lead to future joint publications.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Collaboration with University of Sheffield 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Department Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have initiated a collaboration with Prof. John Provis from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, to provide valuable insight in the development of transport models applied to alkali-activated materials, which is the main topic of research of one of the PhD researchers based at U. Leeds, co-sponsored by the fellowship project.
Collaborator Contribution Prof. Provis is contributing his time and knowledge to our modelling efforts, providing mentorship to the PhD researcher based in Leeds working on this topic.
Impact This is a new collaboration and we anticipate that it will lead to several joint publications in the near future.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Collaboration with the National X-ray Computed Tomography Lab (Henry Royce Institute) 
Organisation Henry Royce Institute
Department Henry Royce Institute – University of Manchester Facilities
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A collaboration with Prof. Philip Withers (Chief Scientist - Henry Royce Institute) has been initiated for applying advanced X-ray diffraction couples with computed tomography (XRD-CT) for the assessment of low carbon cements upon CO2 exposure. The RENACEM and MUSE teams are contributing our expertise in cements materials chemistry and computed tomography applied to cementitious materials. This collaboration led to the application for beamtime to the European Synchrotron Research Facility (ESRF)- beamline ID15 for conducting the world's first in-situ carbonation XRD-CT of blended cements with calcined clays and alkali-activated cements
Collaborator Contribution Prof. Philip Withers and his team at ESRF are contributing their immense expertise in XRD-CT applied to different materials, to support the design of the experiments that will be developed in this facility, as well as insight and support in the data processing.
Impact This is a new collaboration, and the main output so far is the join submission of beamtime to conduct experiments in ESRF. Other collaborative grant proposals are also being prepared with Prof. Whiters to further explore the applicability of X-ray computed techniques to cement materials.
Start Year 2022
 
Description Partnership with Ghent University (Belgium) 
Organisation University of Ghent
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I am named partners in a grant funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) where my team and is contributing advanced imaging in recycled aggregate hybrid concretes, for evaluation of the pore structure and chemical features characteristic of the interfacial transition zone between recycled aggregates and new concrete matrices. As part of these activities members of my team will be visiting U. Ghent, and we will host members of the projects in the UKCRIC National Centre for Infrastructure Materials.
Collaborator Contribution Colleagues at U. Ghent (led by Prof. Nele de Belie and Dr Yury Villagran) lead this partnership through the project titled 'Carbonation performance of concretes with recycled aggregates and hybrid binders' funded by FWO.
Impact This is a new partnership and outcomes have not been generated yet.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Partnership with U. Texas at Austin (USA) 
Organisation University of Texas at Austin
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution As an extension of the relationship between U. Texas at Austin and my team, we have successfully secured an NSF-EPSRC lead agency grant (RENACEM, EP/T008407/1), evaluating the response of concretes with natural supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) when exposed to CO2. This new project has sponsored the research activities across U. Leeds, U. Sheffield and U. Texas at Austin since 2020. My team and I have provided detailed insight knowledge in clay treatments for their use as cement replacements or precursors for the production of alkali-activated materials, including analysis of USA clays.
Collaborator Contribution Colleagues at U. Texas at Austin are developing the knowledge and understanding required to identify processing technologies to maximise reactivity of SCMs, centred in assessing clays/ soils/ pumices abundant in the US. In collaboration with colleagues from Oregon State University and EMPA, the team and U. Texas at Austin will develop new models for service life prediction of concretes produced with natural SCMs, coupling thermodynamic and multi-physics modelling.
Impact The results obtained from the collaboration between members of the fellowship programme with colleagues at University of Texas, have been presented in two scientific events: one in the 'Virtual 11th Advances in Cement-based Materials. June 23 -25, 2021', and the other in the 'Virtual ACI Fall Convention, Atlanta, USA, October 2021'. Results from the fellowship research linked to the enhancement and assessment of chemical reactivity of clays will be included in a database that is being developed as part of the RENACEM project currently developed with our collaborators at U. Texas.
Start Year 2020
 
Description 2nd Meeting - RILEM TC 281- Carbonation of Concrete with Supplementary Cementitious Materials 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The 2nd RILEM Technical Committee (TC) 281-CCC meeting was held in TU Delft, The Netherlands during RILEM week. This international TC bring together expertise from academia, industry, practitioners as well as policymakers on understanding the response of modern concretes when exposed to CO2. As Deputy-Chair of the TC and coordinator of the Working Group in Carbonation of Alkali-Activated Materials, I presented some of the published results in the topic, as well as the outcome of an international round robin evaluating the feasibility of adopting different testing conditions, for assessment of performance of these materials. The presentation of these results sparked questions and discussions particularly from industry participants, as it highlights the needs of creating more suitable testing methodologies to determine performance of alkali-activated concretes when exposed to CO2. This has aided in motivation for the development of a critical review currently under preparation compiling existing data in the topic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description 3rd Yorkshire Cement and Concrete Science Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 35 members of the Civil Engineering Materials Research Unit (U. Leeds) & Cements@Sheffield (U. Sheffield) attended this symposium, which included 10 technical presentations and a final discussion session to identify collaboration opportunities and synergies between the projects developed at both institutions. At present we are in the development of 3 grant applications with participation of both institution, and research from both teams will gain access to the facilities available through the Henry Royce Institute and UKCRIC, capitalising in recent government investments.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Colloquium in multi-scale characterisation of porous materials 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact In an effort of increase the visibility of existing new facilities and centres linked to my research (e.g. Bragg Centre for Materials Research, UKCRIC National Centre for Infrastructure Materials, Institute of Fluid Dynamics) this colloquium brought together attendees across different School of the Faculty of Engineering with interest in characterisation of porous materials. Although it was intended to be a small local event, we >40 attendees, really engaged with the activity. Several attendees have request to develop more activities such as this one, as it was well received to identify academics to develop potential collaboration projects, and also the facilities and support available, linked to the ongoing projects developed by my team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Inspiring Women in the Raw Materials Sector 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The women chapter of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) invited me to deliver an inspirational talk to share my experiences as an academic leader working in cement and concrete. This talk is aimed to all alumni of the EIT where there was a conversation to answer questions about the challenges and opportunities that I have faced as an international woman academic in a senior position working in a male dominated sector.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description International Women in Engineering Day 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As part of the celebrations of the International Women in Engineering 2020, I was showcased as one of the academic leaders in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/civil-engineering/news/article/5642/international-women-in-engineering-day-2...
 
Description Interview for International news 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was interviewed by NTN24 international news which is a 24 hours 2ews channel broadcasted in all Spanish speaking countries and North America. I was an invited expert to contribute to a segment to 'La Tarde' programme to discuss about 'sand and potential effect on glass production of the COVID vaccine vials'. This interview was broadcasted on 20th March 2021
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Interview for RILEM Association 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited RILEM Young Members Interview Series. I was invited to share my experiences as an Early Career researcher developing my career and network as part of the professional organisation RILEM (International Union of Laboratories and Experts in Construction Materials, Systems and Structures). As part of this activity three short videos in English were produced, as well as two short videos in Spanish. These videos are available in the RILEM Youtube channel, and were widely advertised across all its members globally, and via other professional organisations, particularly in Latin America (e.g. FICEM (Interamerican federation of cement producers) newsletter, and the Asociacion Argentina de Technologia del Hormigon.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.youtube.com/user/RILEMChannel/videos
 
Description Interview for The World - A co-production of the BBC World Service, Public Radio International and WGBH in Boston 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This radio interview was centred in discussing greener alternatives infrastructure materials that can be used for production of sustainable concretes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-07-19/concrete-production-uses-ton-sand-and-emits-lot-carbon-here-a...
 
Description Interview for national news 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was interviewed for the Sky News The Daily Climate Show. In this interview I discussed about a recent project sponsored by Innovate UK with the Minister of Justice as a partner to develop low carbon pre-casting concrete. This interview was broadcasted on 27th July 2021
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=162ELQpIVP8&t=571s
 
Description Invited Talk - EIT Inspiring Women in the Raw Materials Sector 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Women Alumni division organised a webinar series 'Inspiring Women in the Raw Materials Sector' where prominent women from academia or industry are invited to discuss about their career experiences, and interact with attendees to answer potential career questions. I was very honoured to be one of the speakers in this series, where I met some of the coordinators of this event, and I shared a very open viewpoint of tips to survive and thrive as a woman in academia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://eit.europa.eu/news-events/events/inspiring-women-raw-materials-sector-susan-bernal-lopez
 
Description Invited keynote in scientific event - 7th Int. Slag Valorisation Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The "Slag Valorisation Symposium", organised by the Materials Engineering Department at KU Leuven and held in Belgium since 2009 as a biennial conference, serves as a forum for discussions on the valorisation of slags and other high-temperature metallurgical residues. The symposium has historically brought together different expertise from academia and industry, providing a knowledge platform to share and discuss the upcoming challenges and opportunities in the world of slag valorisation and sustainable high-temperature processes.

In this talk Prof. Bernal presented an overview of the most recent findings linked to the fellowship research programme, which sparked further conversations with attendees to this event in the area of alkali-activation technology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://slag-valorisation-symposium.eu/
 
Description Invited talk - Bragg Centre of Materials Research Annual Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I was invited to deliver a talk as part of the annual Bragg Centre for Materials Research symposium (Bragg Exchange), showcasing the research my team and I develop in construction materials science, particularly activities linked to the remit of the Bragg Centre and Henry Royce Institute at the University of Leeds. Participants asked several questions about this research, and my presentation led to further conversations with academics linked to Henry Royce Institute in other Universities to potential development of future collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkBIRa2vnGc&t=19584s
 
Description Invited talk for the Microlab Colloquium - TU Delft - The Netherlands 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Around 20 academics, researchers and postgraduate students of the Faculty of Civil Enginering & Geosciences, as well as from the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) attended the Microlab colloquium, where I presented my research in utilising alkali-activated cements and concretes in extreme environments, such as encapsulation/ immobilisation of radioactive nuclear wastes. All attendees were very interested in the research outcomes presented, and made several questions about the chemistry of these materials and the advantages over other types of cementitious grouts. This discussion created major awareness of the applicability of these innovative cements in application beyond civil construction.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited talk for the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Day - Leeds City Region 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was an invited speaker at the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Day organised by the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Leeds, presenting the new trends in infrastructure materials for 'cementing the future infrastructure'. I particularly emphasised the key role of concrete in our societal development, and also the great opportunities to increase sustainability of future infrastructure by development and adoption of low-carbon cements, such as alkali-activated materials. Several members of the audience from industry were particularly interested in the research I am conducting in this topic, and the advanced characterisation techniques available in the UKCRIC Centre of Infrastructure Materials housed at the University of Leeds.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://engineering.leeds.ac.uk/events/event/362/royal_academy_of_engineering_research_day_-_leeds_c...
 
Description LafargeHolcim Research and Innovation Centre - Workshop on durability of low carbon concretes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact LafargeHolcim is the largest produced of cement in the world with >250 cement plants across 75 countries. As part of their research portfolio to decrease the CO2 emissions associated with this industry, they are very interested in developing alternative/ low carbon solution that can be rapidly implemented and commercialised. This company invited a team of 5 international experts in alkali-activation technology, including me, to discuss research needs and the way forward to enable this technology to read a point of readiness that will enable its commercialisation at a global scale. Discussion about the future of low carbon concretes took place. A formal collaboration among my research team and LafargeHolcim will take place during the upcoming months through the development of grant proposals co-sponsored by this organisation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Leeds Cultural Labs - Bragg edition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Researchers from the University of Leeds's Bragg Centre for Materials Research are collaborating with artists to explore what it means to be creative, through the Cultural Institute's Leeds Creative Labs programme. Murray Royston-Ward is a sonic arts practitioner collaborated with members of my team in this initiative to explore the 'soul of concrete' and how sound can travel across concrete based materials. Murray practice addresses improvisation's core materiality by interrogating the relationships between humans and objects/materials. He uses audio technology, material resonance, and feedback in improvisatory relationships with materials to build instruments for improvisation and explore the entanglement of human and material in performance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.leeds.ac.uk/site/custom_scripts/profile-single.php?profileTypeID=3&categoryID=130553&pro...
 
Description Outreach activity in schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact In collaboration with the STEM outreach team at the University of Leeds, my team and I developed the activity ' Building a greener world - low-carbon concrete workshop for schools'. This activity was developed to bring to life the Design & Technology curriculum around 'Sustainable Design'. Teachers have asked the university to deliver a session that involved the use of tangible materials that students could touch and test in person. After the sessions this activity got really positive feedback with teachers commented that students were able to relate this material to the outside world and see the relevance of the subject taught in schools. Students enjoyed testing materials in person and applying the reactions to design briefs. Teachers commented that schools would not usually have access to these materials and felt this was an invaluable learning experience for their students.

Sessions delivered so far include at Castleford Academy and Minsthorpe Community College, both secondary schools in West Yorkshire, Wakefield within low participation neighbourhoods. To date, the session has engaged 130 young people in year 9 - 11, and several sessions have been booked for Spring 2022. We are expecting to reach a much larger number of young people this year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://twitter.com/CastlefordAcad/status/1461301615709859844
 
Description RILEM TC MPA - Mechanical properties of alkali-activated concrete 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Some members of the fellowship research team has become active in the RILEM Technical Committee on Mechanical properties of alkali-activated concrete, which will gather the available information related to mechanical properties and mechanical behaviour of alkali-activated concrete to develop a comprehensive state of the art report, identifying research gaps to inform practitioners and research about existing research needs, in a global context. This committee has organised a couple of meetings where future activities are being discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.rilem.net/groupe/mpa-mechanical-properties-of-alkali-activated-concrete-389
 
Description The Conversation article 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact This article intended to bring awareness to the general public of the properties and developments made in concrete technology, particularly when this material is exposed to extreme environments, through comparison of those environments with those created in the Star Wars saga. The article has been read >30000 and re-published in yahoo news, paidforarticles.com and uktopnews.com
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://theconversation.com/how-did-the-rebels-beat-the-empire-in-star-wars-the-answer-is-closer-to-...
 
Description University of Leeds - Kyoto University Japan Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was an event organised by the University of Leeds, School of Civil Engineering in collaboration with colleagues from Kyoto University of Japan to identify potential areas of collaboration. I was an invited speaker in this event presenting the outcomes of this fellowship research and opportunities of join research across this two Universities. Representatives from both Universities attended such event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description University of Leeds research spotlight - Going with the flow, the hidden science of fluid dynamics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact This article aimed to highlight the relationship between studying concrete durability and fluid dynamics principles, to highlight the multi-disciplinary and multi-scale approach required to understand how concretes interact and respond to the CO2 in the environment. This article has sparked conversation with colleagues from different disciplines to develop more accurate modelling tools for service life prediction of concrete structures.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.leeds.ac.uk/spotlight-article/80/
 
Description University of Leeds research spotlight - Making concrete greener 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact This press release intended to create awareness of the research efforts my research and I are investing in developing low carbon materials for sustainable infrastructure development, linked to the ongoing research grants we are developing, including the EC fellowship. This article is featured in the main page of the School of Civil Engineering at U. Leeds and has given great visibility to my research to current and future students at all levels, as well as colleagues and broader audiences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/collaborations-impact/doc/research-spotlight-making-concrete-greener
 
Description Virtual Microdurability Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited Keynote speaker for the Microdurability event organised by Delft University (The Netherlands) in partnership with the RILEM association , where I presented the main outcomes of the research developed by my team in elucidating mechanism leading to the long term performance of alkali-activated concretes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020