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Environment, Health and Safety Research

CAREER: An Integrated Research and Education Program in Long-Term Durability of Nano-Structured Cement-Based Materials during Environmental Weathering

Project Information

Principal InvestigatorFlorence Sanchez
InstitutionVanderbilt University
Project URLView
Relevance to ImplicationsSubstantial
Class of NanomaterialIncidental Nanomaterials
Impact SectorCross-cutting
Broad Research Categories Characterization
NNI identifierc5-2

Funding Information

Anticipated Total Funding$413,325.00
Annual Funding$103,331.25
Funding SourceNSF
Funding Mechanism
Funding SectorGovernment
Start Year2006
Anticipated End Year2010


Randomly oriented nano/microfiber (steel, carbon, or polymer) reinforced cement-based materials are an important class of composite materials with superior structural and functional properties that will open doors for new applications in civil infrastructure with the possibility of lowering total life cycle costs. It is important to gain a better understanding of the long-term durability of these materials under environmental stresses because of the critical needs that they can potentially fulfill to improve infrastructural health and function. The goal of this CAREER is to (1) develop a fundamental understanding of the controlling mechanisms of environmental weathering of nano/microfiber reinforced cement-based materials through integration of theory, experimental observation, and computational simulation focusing on how molecular level chemical phenomena at the fiber-cement interface and interfacial zone influence long-term bulk material performance and (2) educate students at multiple levels through laboratory projects, undergraduate and graduate level courses, graduate research and training, and interactive activities that reveal the relationships between material chemistry, weathering phenomena, and material durability. State-of-the-art experimental chemical, mechanical, and physical characterization of weathering mechanisms across multiple length scales (nano to macro), multi-scale computational analysis, and traditional durability testing will be integrated to (i) further elucidate the failure modes of the fiber-cement interface, and (ii) quantify and relate mechanical and chemical changes of the fiber-cement interface and interfacial zone during decalcification, carbonation, and calcium substitution/transfer to observed macro-scale properties. The educational program proposes to provide undergraduate research experience opportunities and graduate research and training, to develop a freshman seminar and course modules for the Vanderbilt-Fisk Nanoscience IGERT program, and to promote civil engineering to K-12 students through the development of interactive practical science engineering activities for classrooms disseminated through a web-based virtual laboratory. This integrated research and education program will (1) provide significant contributions toward defining the link between molecular level chemical changes and macro-scale material properties necessary to increase the predictability of cement-based material performance, (2) provide a fundamental understanding of interfacial chemistry necessary to design tailored, advanced cementitious composites that have improved durability and resistance to weathering, (3) engage student intellectual curiosity concerning the nature and properties of materials and the complex and intriguing chemical interactions that occur in cement, and (4) integrate chemistry and nanotechnologies into civil engineering education.