Sustainable Infrastructure Materials

Research mentor: Prof. Christopher Shearer, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Lab Overview: This lab’s research focuses on developing innovative, but practical, cement-based and alternative materials for incorporation into a future sustainable infrastructure that reduces the global footprint of the construction materials industry.

SD-RET research project: The teachers will conduct experimental research on alkali-activated geopolymer materials, which are sustainable structural binders that are less energy- and carbon-intensive than cement-based materials. The teachers will study the influence of different variables on the early-age behavior and performance of geopolymers. Specifically, the teachers will vary the mix design (e.g., powder types, alkaline solution chemistry) and curing conditions (e.g., temperature, humidity) of the geopolymers and measure the influence of these parameters on the setting time, exothermic reactivity, and rheology as well as compressive strength development. Additionally, the teachers will image the geopolymer pastes at the nano-to-micro scale using a scanning electron microscope (SEM).

The SD-RET RAs will:

  • Gain an understanding about fundamental chemistry, materials, physics, and sustainability concepts.
  • Develop research skills by learning how to set-up and conduct a systematic laboratory experiment, and to analyze and interpret data to draw justifiable conclusions.
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South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
Department of Mechanical Engineering