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EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Infrastructure and Built Environment: Resilience in a Changing World (FIBE2)

 

 

 

Against the beautiful twilight backdrop of downtown Oslo, the capital city of Norway, FIBE2 students Callum White and India Harding attended the Net-Zero Future conference dedicated to advancing research, innovation, and collaboration in pursuit of a sustainable and net-zero carbon environment. The conference provided an inspiring setting for discussions, networking opportunities and knowledge exchange among conference attendees with expertise in fields such as architecture, engineering, materials science, energy, policy, and urban planning.  Participants shared cutting-edge research leading to practical applications addressing challenges faced by Industry as the world transitions toward a greener and more sustainable net-zero future.

Congratulations to Callum White from Cohort 3 who won an award for his paper on “Fresh state properties of conventional range concretes containing blast furnace slag.” He presented a case for the importance of understanding material performance to prevent waste and improve material utilisation, ultimately improving the sustainability of concrete as a material. According to Callum, cement, as an ingredient of concrete is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Alternative materials, such as blast furnace slag, can be used to replace cement and support net zero goals. Unfortunately, we don’t fully understand how slag affects the concrete mix, particularly how easily the resulting concrete can be placed in moulds to create our infrastructure, such as buildings and bridges. Our research found that adding slag generally makes the concrete less workable, meaning the concrete is harder to mix and pour. At lower levels (up to 20% slag), the change is not as noticeable. These findings suggest that we might need to rethink the usual guidelines for concrete when using slag to ensure we maintain quality and efficiency. By understanding these effects better, we can improve the sustainability of construction practices and effectively use less carbon-emitting materials like slag without compromising performance. 

“Receiving a ‘Best Presentation Prize’ at the inaugural Net Zero Future Conference in Oslo is a tremendous honour, given that over 300 researchers from 45 different countries took part over three days. Winning this prize validates the importance of the research and underscores the necessity of innovative solutions in the quest for net-zero emissions. The opportunity to meet Oslo's mayor and to visit the historic room where the Nobel Peace Prize is presented added a profound sense of inspiration to the event, reminding me of the global impact and responsibility of our work.”
                                             - Callum White, Cohort 3 MRes +PhD student

India Harding from Cohort 4 presented a paper on the “Suitability of excavation clay wastes for sustainable earthen construction.” India puts forward that each year in the UK, 26.2% of total generated waste is attributed to excavated soil - half of which ends up in landfill. The clay within waste soil is high in aluminosilicates making it a feasible option as a supplementary cementitious material or geopolymer precursor. The novelty of this study is that the application is for a binder within earthen construction materials. This study assessed the mineralogy and pozzolanic reactivity of the calcined waste clays to determine whether they could be used. It is possible to use waste clays, however their success is highly dependent on mineralogy. It is not possible to achieve metakaolin-levels of reactivity using waste clays, but the minimum compressive strength required for earthen construction materials means that binder strength may not be a limiting factor. Using clay waste, which otherwise ends up in landfill supports the notion of a circular economy. This research is aimed at producing low carbon binders which helps contribute to net zero emissions.

“Attending the 'Net Zero Future' conference in the stunning Norwegian wilderness was an enlightening experience. Presenting my research on using waste clays for geopolymers not only validated the importance of sustainable materials in achieving our climate goals but also highlighted the innovative potential within the field. The diverse perspectives and insights gained from other attendees has deeply enriched my understanding and reinforced the relevance of my work in contributing to a sustainable net-zero future.”
                                               - India Harding, Cohort 4 MRes +PhD student

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