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Effect of cooling rates on the properties of Portland cement clinker and in the presence of unconventional/minor elements

Deadline: 30 September 2021

Location: University of Sheffield

Dr Theodore Hanein

Cement is the most manufactured commodity worldwide and is essential to building modern infrastructure. The most ubiquitous cement is Portland cement (PC) that is produced in high-temperature kilns. The quality of PC relies on several factors including the chemical composition and physical properties of the raw materials, the type and composition of fuels used to supply heat to the kilns, and the heating and cooling profile of materials during clinker production.

The presence of minor elements in the raw materials and fuels can affect the formation and hydraulic reactivity of the resulting cement clinker minerals. Understanding the effect of minor elements on the clinker composition and the hydration of resulting cement is becoming ever more important. This is mostly because the availability and quality of raw materials are reducing, which requires the use of alternative materials (e.g., industrial by-products) where minor elements are unavoidable. The role and fate of minor elements is closely associated with the rate of clinker cooling, but systematic studies on understanding of these two factors together are lacking.

This 4-year PhD project aims to systematically examine the effect of cooling rates and minor elements (Mg, S, Na, Zn, F and P) on the stability, composition, microstructure, and hydration of Portland cement clinker. Batches of clinker will be produced under different chemical environments and processing conditions to assess the changes in their hydration, and in the presence of gypsum. Detailed characterisation of materials will be conducted to link processing conditions to cement performance.

We are looking to recruit a graduate with a first or high 2.1 class honours degrees (or equivalent) with a background in materials science, chemistry, chemical engineering, earth sciences, physics, or a related discipline. Experience in high temperature synthesis methods, thermodynamics, and cement chemistry are desirable but not essential. Familiarity with these characterisation techniques is also desirable: X-ray diffraction and fluorescence, scanning electron microscopy, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance, Mössbauer spectroscopy, and Differential/Drop/Isothermal Calorimetry.

The PhD student will join a dynamic team of researchers based in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at The University of Sheffield to innovate cement. The student will work in the Cements@Sheffield group which is the UK’s leading cement group (according to Scopus citations). As part of the project, the student is also expected to visit RWTH Aachen University (Germany) for 9 months and SIMaP Grenoble (France) for 3 months; all travel and subsistence covered. We are an equal opportunity organisation and value diversity at our university; we know that diversity in all its forms delivers greater impact.

This project, led by Dr Theodore Hanein, has an international scope, and is funded by Innovandi – the research network of the Global Cement and Concrete Association. The student will have access to this network which brings together world renowned academics and key players in the cement industry to collaborate on fundamental pre-competitive research. The PhD student will also be supported by other project investigators: Dr Sam Ghazizadeh, Prof. John Provis, Prof. Thomas Matschei, Dr Fabien Georget, and Dr Alexander Pisch.


Full funding is available at international student fee rates with a minimum tax-free stipend of £17,000 per year, which includes an industrial top-up. Start Date of Studentship is 07 February 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter.
Please see this web link for information on how to apply and access the Postgraduate Online Application Form: View Website

Published: August 17th, 2021
Posted in PhD opportunities

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