One of the most critical issues for a sustainable development of concrete as the backbone material for infrastructure and housing is to address the CO2 footprint of concrete materials. We propose a new way to address this issue, one that is based on a shift of paradigm that will transform the way cement based materials are designed and characterized by industry for "green" concrete applications. The basis of our paradigm-shifting R & D is the first atomistic-scale computational model of this complex material from which we will predict new structures and improved properties that will revolutionize how cement is designed, slash CO2 emissions, and enable US leadership in future energy-related cement technologies. To drive this idea from discovery to technology, MIT scientists and engineers will leverage collaborations and industrial partnerships of the Concrete Sustainability Hub with Federal Laboratory experts and computational resources.
To further drive discovery towards implementation, we shall explore new materials-structural solutions for a large range of concrete engineering applications, such as concrete pavements, wall systems, etc. The focus of the concrete building technology unit is the development of aggregate models for such systems that are able to translate progress on the concrete science front (materials properties, reduced environmental footprint) into added value performance criteria, which include structural and life-span performance, life-cycle analysis and CO2 balance investigations.
Ultimately, meeting the challenge of sustainable development requires overcoming the "valleys of death" of technology implementation. The improvements in technology and operation, needed to allow sustainable development of cement and concrete industry, depend crucially on the delivery to manufacturers, state and federal administrators and regulators of robust results incorporating improved understanding of the processes and interactions that determine the environmental impact. The CSH concrete econometrics unit will dedicate research to assessing the impact of concrete science and building technology advances on energy and climate policies; and vice versa. This will involve modeling the demand for and supply of energy and carbon pricing systems; technology assessment; simulation and assessment of the impact of energy and climate policies on the concrete industry.