A civil engineering researcher will use a National Science Foundation grant to develop new concrete materials that have longer lives and leave more environmentally friendly footprints.
Warda Ashraf, an assistant professor of civil engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington and the Center for Advanced Construction Materials (CACM), received a $461,969 multi-disciplinary grant to develop the new material.
Ashraf will partner with Frank Foss, associate professor of chemistry, and Erika La Plante, assistant professor in materials science and engineering.
“The problem with the way cement is made now is that it emits carbon dioxide, which is not good for the environment,” Ashraf said. “Industrial byproducts, such as coal fly ash and slag, can be used in the manufacturing of environmentally friendly concrete. However, this type of concrete gets damaged due to the presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“The goal of this project is to extend the life of this environmentally friendly concrete by using a new type of external additive. This new type of composite can potentially provide similar or better mechanical performance as conventional concrete but are more environmentally friendly.”
The title of the project is “Controlling the Interaction Between Carbon Dioxide and Cementitious Materials Using Biomimetic Molecules.”
Foss expertise is in biomimetics, which are synthetic systems that mimic what’s found in the environment. La Plante’s research interests include cementitious materials and CO2 utilization.
Ali Abolmaali, chair of the Civil Engineering Department, said the collaboration across disciplines only strengthens the research project.
“A multi-disciplinary approach brings different ways of thinking about research. Everyone is coming at the research project from a different point of view,” Abolmaali said. “Concrete is the most plentiful of construction materials. If this team can make concrete that’s more environmentally friendly, less expensive and longer lasting, it could have an impact on the entire industry.”