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!

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.

Funding for Transforming Campus into a Living Lab

Interest in deploying light-weight materials for engineering infrastructure has been gaining momentum over the past decades, with a focus on new materials, sustainable and innovative design, as well as low life-cycle energy. An adaptive system can change shape in response to environmental stimuli and a deployable system can be quickly installed in extreme conditions. An example of a system that can be both adaptive and deployable is a tensegrity structure, which is primarily composed of bars and cables held in a state of self-stress.

Below are some sample tensegrity structures:

a) A T3-prism [Source: Wiki Creative Commons]
b) Needle tower by Kenneth Snelson [Source: Wiki Creative Commons]
c) An adaptive, deployable structure by A. Sychterz) [Source: EPFL]

Garg Group in collaboration with SMARTI lab led by Prof. Sychterz has recently obtained funding from the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) to pursue the development of a bike parking canopy that is planned to be installed adjacent to the Newmark Civil Engineering Lab Building on UIUC campus. The material of choice for this project will be an aluminum alloy which has a high strength-to-weight ratio. Structural design of the tensegrity structure will be led by Prof. Sychterz and optimization of the aluminum alloy selection will be led by Prof. Garg. 

We are excited to venture into this new field of tensegrity structures, aluminum alloys, and their potential applications for sustainable construction! 

New Group Member

We typically hire new students during the Fall and the Spring semester. However, we have made an exception this year, and hired a new student during the Summer term. The student is quite young but appears to be highly motivated – which is the key criteria for successful entry in our group.

The student will be initially mentored by a senior member of the group (who was also a summer recruit, a few years ago). An agreement has been made between the two for collaboration, and all concerned parties have kindly agreed.

The (tentative) thesis title for this new student is,

Novel Mechanisms for Disrupting Parents’ Sleep during Nightime.”

Publications are on their way.

Seed Funding on Municipal Solid-Waste

Efficient management of municipal solid waste involves primarily three practices: landfilling, recycling, and incineration for energy recovery (waste-to-energy or WTE). Out of the ~250 million tons of waste produced each year in the US, approximately 140 million tons is landfilled, 80 million tons is recycled, and 30 million tons is incinerated for energy.  This alternative to traditional waste management (“Waste-to-Energy”) is gaining traction, but remains less than sustainable: The ash generated as a result of incineration can be dangerous to handle and expensive to dispose of. Often, the ash ends up in landfills.

Garg Group has recently been awarded seed funding from the Institute of Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) at the University of Illinois to explore the use of these ashes as building materials in construction. Prof. Garg in collaboration with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center will be utilizing this funding to seek external grants.

We are excited to venture into this important and critical field of waste management.

New Graduate Students

Garg group welcomes the first set of graduate students! Pratyush and Krishna joined the group in Fall 2019. Pablo and Vikram joined us in Spring 2020. Together, we’re working towards our common objective of building a better and sustainable world.

Currently, we’re looking forward to add more team members. Multiple positions for grad students for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 are currently open. If you’re interested in joining us, apply online.