Building materials such as concrete are created to produce greener, more efficient structures aiming to increase self-cleaning or healing abilities, strength, and durability or optimize thermal insulating properties. Researchers and materials engineers focus on expanding these capabilities with the industry’s future needs in mind.
Microscopy Solutions for Building Materials
Investigate building materials in multiple length scales and modalities and connect them with each other. From the material’s processing over its structure and properties up to its performance in engineering applications – from skyscrapers to pavement blocks and everything in between – make use of a whole range of microscope solutions.
- Processing: Study hydration of cement with Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM).
- Structure: Observe and quantify the produced structures, find out how they relate to properties, investigate failure analysis in building materials with the 3D submicron imaging capabilities of X-ray microscopy (XRM).
- Properties and Performance: Investigate or predict how a novel building material, like self-healing concrete, will perform in a real-world application, using SEM.
Analyze building materials like cement, the composition, shape and morphology of its compounds, either dry or in a hydrated state with Scanning Electron Microscopy, which is suited not only to high vacuum experiments but also to environmental conditions.
- Image concrete samples in a range of temperatures, pressures, and humidity conditions
- Reveal hydration mechanisms at high resolution using a coolstage
- Achieve high resolution, high contrast images with minimal sample preparation using detectors especially tailored for these varying conditions
Imagine being able to investigate the root causes of cracking, such as lack of moisture, excess heat generation during the early stages of curing, mechanical stress, and internal chemical origins, such as rebar corrosion, in longer-term cracking and overcome these well-known limitations. Using acoustic or micro-computed tomography, you will acquire images with resolutions of several millimeters to possibly a 100 µm. With more high-end micro-CTs, you achieve higher resolutions, yet these experiments can only be carried out with samples of small sizes.
- Characterize highly varying 3D topologies and crack networks non-destructively.
- Image in 3D at sub-micron resolutions.
- Investigate relatively large sample sizes in situ and quantify fracture evolution during stress and environmental conditions with 3D X-ray microscopy for fast imaging of intact samples.
Think of further advancing self-healing concrete like researchers of the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. Inspired by their ability to repair themselves to a certain extent after being damaged, the researchers started a project to work with potential minerals (magnesia, bentonite clay, quicklime) used in cement that expand when cracks form. This expansion of the mineral material fills the cracks and bridges them over time.
- Characterize the material’s microstructure and identify the self-healing bridges formed during the healing process.
- Capture high-definition topographical images using SEM with low acceleration energie
- Identify the composition and mix of self-healing materials based on their structural pattern and formation style
Get in touch with us to find out more about the benefits of ZEISS Microscopy Solutions for your building materials research, book a demo at our customer center, or get a quote. We are looking forward to hearing from you.