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Understanding the hydration of ferrite in Portland cement

Location: University of Sheffield

Applications accepted all year round

To increase resource use efficiency in the UK cement industry, the formulation of Portland cement clinker will need to include a higher amount of ferrite minerals, but the fundamental understanding of hydration (reaction with water) of those minerals are still lacking.

Every year, the UK cement industry produces ~8 Mt of cement clinker and extracts ~13 Mt of natural resources, which leads to ~4 Mt of CO2 emissions. By 2050, this level of emissions must be cut whilst producing the same, if not more, amount of clinker. The UK government’s ambitious plan is to gain half of this via resource and energy use efficiency in cement plants, meaning that natural materials normally fed into the UK’s cement kilns will need to be replaced partially by other materials of similar chemical composition.

Amongst possible alternatives, wastes from the UK steel industry are available in large quantities, and contain the desired elements for clinker making. The steel sector generates 1 Mt of wastes and by-products each year, which is anticipated to continue into the foreseeable future. In addition, ~200 Mt of unused legacy iron and steel slags exist across the UK. These materials contain the necessary ingredients to make Portland cement (i.e., CaO and SiO2), but are also rich in iron (Fe) and can contain a range of minor elements, leading to the formation of ferrite minerals of various chemistries.

The aim of this project is to fundamentally understand the hydration kinetics and thermodynamics of ferrite bearing cement clinkers in the absence and presence of gypsum and/or limestone.

We are looking to recruit a graduate with a first or high 2.1 class honours degrees with a background in materials science, chemical engineering, chemistry, earth sciences, or a related discipline. Knowledge and experience in minerals, cements, and concrete are particularly beneficial. Familiarity in relevant materials testing and characterisation techniques such as SEM, XRD, ICP, and calorimetry is desirable but not essential.

The PhD student will join a dynamic team of researchers based in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at TUoS to develop research and innovation in the field of cement and concrete. MSE at TUoS is a globally leading research centre in the innovation and development of materials to resolve global challenges. We are an equal opportunity organisation and value diversity at our university; we know that diversity in all its forms delivers greater impact. The student will work in the world-leading Cements@Sheffield group and is expected to have a 3-month research visit at RWTH Aachen University. This studentship is part of the FeRICH project.

To apply: View Website

Funding Note

This studentship will pay Home tuition fees and a stipend for living expenses for 3.5 years at the RCUK rate.
EU and other nationals may be eligible for Home-student fees.
Students with overseas fees status can apply, but if accepted, they will need to separately fund the difference in fees between the International and Home rate.
Start Date is September 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Published: November 30th, 2021
Posted in PhD opportunities

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