B.S. Chemical Engineering, The Ohio State University, 2021
Understanding Early-Age Properties of Sustainable Concrete Binder
Cement is the most manufactured material on the planet and the second most consumed material behind only water. Cement production and processing accounts for around 8% of the entire world’s CO2 emissions. If we want to see a more sustainable future, something must change with our current construction materials. Over 200,000 miles away, there is a separate but connected problem at hand.
One of humanities current visions is successful and prevalent space travel and habitation. This is present in the United States with NASA’s Project Artemis. There are many steps before this dream can be realized, but one current question is what materials lunar structures will be constructed from. Not only is the transportation of current construction materials from Earth to the Moon not financially viable, but the environment it will be built in is harsh. In-situ resource utilization (ISRU) is required to overcome this issue and has become an area of increasing interest. Geopolymers present an opportunity for the terrestrial and extraterrestrial problem.
Geopolymers are an amorphous inorganic polymer made from an aluminosilicate source and an alkali hydroxide or silicate solution. Many terrestrial rocks and clays, industrial waste products, and lunar regolith are rich in aluminosilicates and can support geopolymer formation. Not only can these materials have higher compressive strengths, better chemical resistance, and greater fire resistance than Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC), geopolymers also have a proposed reduction in CO2 emissions from 60-90% depending on the choice of source material. Geopolymer chemistry presents an opportunity as a sustainable alternative to OPC on Earth as well as a material for ISRU in lunar applications.
I am interested in studying these materials to form a more holistic understanding of their composition, kinetics, and material properties by developing models that describe the rheology and final material properties of geopolymer systems. I work towards optimizing the performance of geopolymers as a sustainable concrete for lunar and terrestrial applications.