Carrying out fundamental research on concrete containing alkali-activated materials is highly challenging. Tackling the research questions mentioned in the scientific part of the proposal clearly requires an interdisciplinary approach which combines the expertise in several complementary concrete science disciplines such as reaction chemistry, microstructure characterization, micro-and macromechanical behaviour before and after setting, volume stability and cracking risk assessment.

The research group from Prof. Özlem Cizer at the civil engineering department at KU Leuven has recently directed its focus on the understanding of the hydration reactions mechanisms of cementitious materials and especially sustainable binders relying on the experimental characterization of hydration reactions and microstructural development. This experience and knowhow is complemented with the expertise on material characterization and experimental facilities present in the laboratory of Macromolecular and Structural Chemistry of Prof. Bart Goderis at KU Leuven.
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Interactions with Dr. Ruben Snellings from the Sustainable Materials Management research department at VITO will allow for even more comprehensive microstructural characterization. VITO will contribute complementary material characterization equipment and expertise, such as scanning electron microscopy and X-ray difraction.
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One of the major shortcomings of concrete containing alkali-activated materials in standard applications is the rapid setting, significantly compromising the material’s workability and compactability. Deciphering the rheological behaviour of AAMs and its microstructural origin is therefore a crucial task. During the last years, the research group of Prof. Geert De Schutter from Magnel laboratory for concrete research at UGent gained very valuable experience and insights into the fundamentals of the rheological behaviour of fresh cementitious materials.
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The research team at the civil engineering laboratory at ULB-BATir from Prof. Stéphanie Staquet developed, in the recent years, a whole set of testing methods and devices to assess the volume stability and the macroscopic mechanical behavior of concrete at very early age. This will allow for evaluating the risk of early-age cracking. In this context, the research group of Prof. Arnaud Deraemaeker has developed a novel approach for ultrasonic monitoring of concrete based on embedded low-cost piezoelectric transducers.
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Modelling approaches allow for predicting the macroscopic material behaviour, which is one of the core objectives of the proposed project. Moreover, they help to decipher physical mechanisms and features at the nano- and microscale, which usually govern the macroscopic material behaviour. Prof. Bernhard Pichler from Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) is an expert in micromechanics-based modelling of cementitious materials and his knowledge and experiance provide the basis for the multiscale modelling activities planned in this project.
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