Research in Lightweight Concrete

Ongoing Investigations into the Production of Variable Density Cellular Materials

Materials for the built environment are generally characterized by relatively low performance and high volume use. Applied research in materials for buildings generally conforms to one of three types of activities: novel assemblies of known building materials, transfer of materials from other industries and economic sectors, and the formulation of new materials. The research on display in the Keller Gallery is of the third type. 

The goal of this research is the creation of a cement that minimizes raw material consumption and energy in production while maximizing lifecycle performance. To this end, Cooke and Fernández have investigated both the production of cellular morphologies at room temperature and the production of variable density in a variety of geometries. Three properties were targeted for improvement: lowering thermal conductivity relative to normal concrete, increasing overall strength and toughness, and providing greater durability relative to autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) by densifying the surface layer of the cast component. 

The most widely and intensively consumed building material in the world is concrete. Carbon emissions from cement production alone have been estimated at 5 percent of total anthropogenic carbon emissions. Given this, innovative cement and concrete research has the potential to significantly reduce the carbon produced by the built environment.

Timothy G. Cooke, candidate, Master of Science in Architectural Studies
John E. Fernández, Associate Professor
Building Technology Program, SA+P