Purdue University student Yiwen Bu discusses her poster “Nanoindentation in Cementitious Materials” with Vanderbilt’s Florence Sanchez. Sanchez is the program chair of the Cements Division meeting. Credit: P. Wray, ACerS.

Today I am at the Cements Division’s annual meeting being held at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. The meeting, which began yesterday afternoon and runs through Tuesday, is held in conjunction with the Center for Advanced Cements-Based Materials.

Mehdi El Hailouch, right, quizzes Peter Stynoski about his poster, “Silica Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes in Portland Cement Mortar.” El Hailouch is a student at Vanderbilt; Stynoski is at the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign. Credit: P. Wray, ACerS.

I made it into Nashville late enough to miss the worst of the sweltering heat, but I still arrived in time to catch the well-attended poster session and reception. One quick observation is that there were quite a few posters on testing and characterization plus several groups looking at the use of various additives (e.g., TiO2) and reinforcement materials (e.g., carbon nanotubes).


Besides the 28 posters, the meetings has 41 talks organized into six different sessions, so the 105+ in attendance have plenty to choose from.

Tonight, the big event is the Della Roy Reception and Lecture (sponsored by Elsevier). The division is honoring the work Karen Scrivener of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, who will be presenting,  “Modeling Hydration Kinetics of Cementitious Systems.”

All the above is pretty much standard meetings fare, but the Cements Division and ACBM have added an unusual twist today with the purpose of exploring the “Future Directions of Cementitious Materials.” The program chairs have organized a working lunch session today with followup sessions Tuesday to explore the following questions:

  • What are the areas of research that are most likely to lead to major advancements in the concrete industry and concrete technology?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing the construction, cement and concrete industry?
  • What are the areas of cement research or education that are currently not being adequately addressed by the profession?
  • Are there opportunities for interdisciplinary research or multidisciplinary research that the cement industry should be more actively embracing?

Those are some hefty questions, and when I spoke to the division leaders last night they acknowledged that even if consensus is elusive, just having these discussions will be a step forward and, it is hoped, will lead to some roadmaps, white papers and collaborative research opportunities. Organizers mention that they hope, for example, that the discussions lead to the development of new research need statements for submittal to the National Cooperative Highway Research Program.

Karen Scrivener, featured Della Roy lecturer, examines a poster on “Fiber Alignment in Pulp Fiber Cement Composites,” by Passarin Jongvisuttisun and Kimberly Kurtis of Georgia Tech. Credit: P. Wray, ACerS.