New Publication on Raman Imaging of Anhydrous Cements

A new publication titled “Enabling Phase Quantification of Anhydrous Cements via Raman Imaging” was published in Cement and Concrete Research in September 2021.

Quantifying the mineral phase composition of an anhydrous cement is essential in determine/predicting the hydrated phase assemblage which consequently governs the overall performance of hardened concrete. Traditional techniques such as X-ray diffraction, optical microscopy, and electron microscopy are well suited to quantify phases in anhydrous cements but they may have some sample-specific limitations in certain scenarios. Here, we demonstrate Raman imaging as a complementary tool for quantitative phase analysis on 11 different cements. Using sufficient statistics (250,000 spectra per image, 5×5 mm area scans with 10 μm/pixel in each image), we were able to accurately quantify the 4 principal phases (alite, belite, aluminate, and ferrite) as well as (up to) 8 secondary phases (gypsum, anhydrite, bassanite, syngenite, dolomite, calcite, quartz, and portlandite) in a broad variety of cements. These results pave the way for future application of Raman imaging for phase quantification in other complex mixtures and systems.

This is the second article from our group’s Ph.D. candidate Krishna C. Polavaram. Congratulations Krishna! 

The article can be accessed here.

Garg Group Annual Picnic (GG-AP) 2021

The first version of GG-AP ’21 was launched in July 2021 where the group spent a day eating and relaxing outdoors. Participation was free for all group members, however, everyone was required to bring a dish for the potluck in lieu of their registration fee. This resulted in a rather extensive buffet-style feast which lifted everyone’s spirits as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Illustration of happy faces of picnic attendees upon consumption of a highly diverse and international cuisine. (Initials, L to R – Top Row: NG, BB, OA, PK, HK, PC, JD; Bottom Row: SS, FQ, KP, RS, VK)

Once the attendees were motivated, they were assembled to execute the real purpose of this picnic: creating some fun memories! The group tried making several creative shots but most of them turned out to be not publishable. One of them, where the group attempts to create an “I” on the ground (reported here as Video 1), survived the editorial cut.

Video 1

Nevertheless, the group will continue to try to generate new content in the meanwhile and will be back next year, in summer 2022. Thanks for reading and watching.

Garg wins the Stephen Brunauer Award

Professor Garg has been recently awarded the prestigious Stephen Brunauer Award from the Cements Division of the American Ceramic Society. The award was presented to Prof. Garg and Prof. Jørgen Skibsted (Garg’s former Ph.D. advisor at Aarhus University, Denmark) for their 2019 article titled “Dissolution kinetics of calcined kaolinite and montmorillonite in alkaline conditions: evidence for reactive Al (V) sites” published in the Journal of the American Ceramic Society.

A graphic summary of the 2019 article that led to the award. Understanding factors influencing dissolution of calcined clays is important in our quest to develop the next generation of sustainable cements.

The announcement was made at the 11th Advances in Cement-Based Materials Conference held virtually last week (June 23-25, 2021). This award is given every year to the author(s) of the best-refereed paper published in the previous calendar year in the Bulletin or the Journal of the American Ceramic Society.

This award honors Dr. Stephen Brunauer (1903-1986), a surface scientist and chemist, who is best known for his BET (Brunauer, Emmett, and Teller) paper on “Adsorption of Gases in Multi-Molecular Layers” published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in 1938. The BET method is one of the most widely used methods for measuring the specific surface area of porous as well as powdered materials. Dr. Brunauer also made significant contributions to our microstructural understanding of cement hydrates.

A list of previous awardees can be found below:

New Publication on Raman Imaging of Granites

A new publication titled “High-fidelity and high-resolution phase mapping of granites via confocal Raman imaging” was published in Scientific Reports in April 2021.

Granites are one of the most abundant silicates on Earth’s crust, and they can often be found in concrete mixtures where siliceous aggregates have been used. Understanding the mineral phase composition of these complex rocks is a key requirement to predict their tolerance to long-term radiation in a nuclear power plant. However, obtaining accurate phase maps from traditional petrographic methods as well as newer elemental mapping methods has a series of limitations. Here, we report a methodology that allows direct mineralogical mapping and fingerprinting using Raman spectroscopy and imaging. Our results enable high-resolution and high-fidelity spatial mapping of minerals at the sub-micron scale, opening up pathways to rapidly assess and quantify the mineralogical composition of samples that require minimal sample preparation.

This is the first article from our group’s Ph.D. candidate Krishna C. Polavaram. Congratulations Krishna!

The article can be accessed here.

New Graduate Students – Spring 2021

Garg Group warmly welcomes new set of graduate students who started recently as research assistants in the Spring 2021 semester. They are Ravi Sharma (MS candidate) and Omar Abdelrahman (MS candidate) who joined us in January, 2021.

Group photo in the North Quad of the UIUC campus on a nice afternoon, before heading to the group meeting. (From left to right; Top row: Vikram Kumar, Ravi Sharma, Prof. Garg, Omar Abdelrahman, Pablo R. Contreras; Bottom row: Sonali Srivastava, Krishna C. Polavaram, Hossein Kabir, Faisal Qadri; Missing: Pratyush Kumar)

We’re looking forward to welcome the next set of students arriving this Fall 2021. We expect several openings in the Spring 2022 and/or Fall 2022 semesters, hence applications for the next year are welcome.

Seed Funding on Self-Healing Concrete

Over time, concrete pavements can be subject to cracking and deterioration. One approach to avoid these cracks is to employ a self-healing concrete that can repair on its own. However, several challenges remain before an effective and reliable self-healing concrete system can be deployed in the field.

Garg Group has recently received seed funding from the STII (Smart Transportation Infrastructure Initiative) which is currently developing the I-ACT (Illinois Autonomous and Connected Track, see video below). We will be working in collaboration with Prof. Ramez Hajj from the Transportation Engineering area within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UIUC.

Overview of I-ACT located at the village of Rantoul, Illinois. (Source: Video embedded from the STII website)

We are excited to venture into the field of self-healing materials!

Postdoc Hiring Announcement

Our group is actively looking to hire a Postdoctoral Research Associate to start working from early 2021. If you’re interested, please refer to the job advertisement.

The deadline to apply is Nov. 30, 2020. Early applications are highly encouraged.

Update: The position has been filled as of June 2021.

New Graduate Students – Fall 2020

Garg Group warmly welcomes new set of graduate students joining in the Fall 2020 semester. They are Sonali (MS candidate), Faisal (PhD candidate), and Hossein (PhD candidate) who joined us in August.

We’re looking to expand our group further. Hence, multiple positions for grad students are open for next year. If you want to join us, consider applying.

Group photo on a nice evening on the Main Quad of UIUC. Standard operating procedures for the year 2020 i.e., face masks and social distancing were carefully followed.

Research Funding on Crack-Sealing and Sealants

Concrete used in bridge decks can often be subject to cracking over the years due to many factors such as (but not limited to) shrinkage, excessive loading, and so on. One way to tackle these cracks is to seal them with polymeric sealants to avoid ingress of harmful (and corrosive) species into the structure. However, such sealants can have a limited lifespan requiring frequent crack-sealing over the bridge’s life.

Garg Group has recently obtained funding to study and characterize these sealants in order to determine optimal and desired properties in these polymeric systems. Additionally, we will explore methods to improve crack-sealing procedures and measure the efficacy of these practices in the field, in partnership with our industrial partner ERI. This research will be conducted with the Illinois Center for Transportation and has been funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

We are excited to venture into the field of crack-sealing and sealants, and work towards a long-lasting and sustainable transportation infrastructure.

Research Funding on Concrete Curing

Concrete is one of the most ubiquitious construction materials due to the widespread availability of its ingredients and economics associated with its procuring and placement. However, all concrete must undergo curing over several days to achieve desired performance in terms of strength and durability. This conventional practice can add delays to projects where rapid deployment of a structure is desired such as opening of a highway or a bridge to the traffic.

Garg Group has recently obtained funding to study this issue and explore methods by which concrete cure times can be effectively reduced. Significant advances can be made by understanding the cement hydration process and the evolution of porosity over the curing duration. In partnership with Illinois Center for Transportation, the work is funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

We are excited to venture into the field of optimizing and advancing concrete structures present in our nation’s transportation infrastructure.