Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Alkali-Activated Cement (AAC) as a Sustainable Building Material

EPA Grant Number: SU834759
Title: Alkali-Activated Cement (AAC) as a Sustainable Building Material
Investigators: Barsoum, Michel , Crook, Abraham , Moseson, Alexander J. , Radlinska, Aleksandra , Shook, Joseph E.
Institution: Drexel University , Villanova University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Project Period: August 15, 2010 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $75,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2010) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemistry , P3 Awards , Sustainability



Alkali-activated cements (AACs) are competitive with ordinary portland cement (OPC) in performance and cost. However, their manufacture produces 95% less CO2, they have longer life and better durability, and they recycle millions of tons of industrial waste. The three specific aims of this project are as follows:

Aim 1: Continue to determine the relationships between chemical, microstructural, and performance properties of AACs This aim is central to solving the challenges facing AACs, and will be expanded to include cementitious/pozzolanic materials beyond the slag used thus far.

Aim 2: Develop commercially viable AACs using ASTM standard tests Specifically, we aim to pass the performance-based standard ASTM C1157. This aim is central to achieving widespread real-world use of the material as a portland cement alternative.

Aim 3: Develop low-cost AACs for use in India, especially slum development / relocation Using principles of Appropriate Design, AACs will be developed using local materials as a high-quality yet affordable building material for improved housing, especially for equitable slum development and/or relocation programs.


The aims will be accomplished using the following parallel approaches:

Aim 1 will be accomplished using various analytical techniques including microscopy, spectroscopy, mechanical testing, and statistical design of experiment, along with ASTM standard performance tests. Specifically, we suggest focusing on the use of multiple iron blast furnace slags and Class C fly ash commercially available in the US and India.

For Aim 2, and involve testing of time of set, strength, and volumetric changes. Further tests will include autogenous shrinkage, drying shrinkage, freeze-thaw, chlorine ponding, and full-scale prototyping. The focus will first be on compositions developed to date that are literally 5 minutes in set-time away from passing ASTM C1157.

Aim 3 will be accomplished in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IITB in Powai, Mumbai, India), as well as humanitarian organizations and an established cement manufacturer and a construction firm. Design inputs will be considered from all stakeholders, including end users.

Expected Results:

It is expected that this project will result in 1) production of technical paper(s) and presentations that better explains the relationships between chemical, microstructural, and performance properties of AACs, 2) commercially viable AAC formulae that pass the ASTM C1157 standard, and 3) proof of concept of low-cost yet high-quality AAC building materials for the greater Mumbai area, especially in support of slum development / relocation efforts.

Supplemental Keywords:

geopolymer, concrete, masonry, brick, block, paver, ready-mix, green, greenhouse,

Relevant Websites:

Phase 1 Abstract