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Project Brief: Northwestern University

NIST Measurement Science and Engineering Research Grants


Establish a comprehensive strategy, through linked experimental and modeling work, for increasing the use of fly ash (an abundant industrial waste material) in concrete to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions associated with portland cement manufacture, and to improve concrete performance and durability.

RECIPIENT: Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

  • Project duration: 3 Years
  • Total NIST Funding: $1,500,000
Concrete provides the backbone of our infrastructure, but its massive use is accompanied by significant energy and material demand, and by production of harmful greenhouse gas. Managing the environmental impact necessitates rapidly moving toward new formulations while preserving durability. However, introducing new materials, such as fly ash, into concrete introduces a large number of new unknowns that cannot all be experimentally evaluated without relying on guidance from models that are based on a fundamental understanding of the hydration process, the nature of the hydration products, and their relationship to properties and performance. There are many questions to be answered for fly ash in concrete, such as how the performance of a particular fly ash in concrete can be predicted and how fly ash alters the microstructure and permeability of portland cement concrete. To help answer these questions, the researchers will establish a detailed strategy for developing a comprehensive model and then produce an initial working model of cement paste that incorporates fly ash. A comprehensive set of models that extend present models to systems containing fly ash would be a powerful tool for incorporating it and other classes of waste materials into concrete.

Public contact (for project information):

Alan Cubbage, 847-491-4886
a-cubbage [at] 

Project Partners: MIT, Princeton University, University of California, Berkeley

NIST Program Office Contact:

Jason Boehm, 301-975-8678Jason.boehm [at] (

Created January 20, 2010, Updated September 9, 2021