CSHub assembles global cement, concrete group leaders at MIT

Leaders of cement and concrete industry organizations representing 11 countries and regions from around the U.S. met with Massachusetts Institute of Technology-hosted Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) staff earlier this year to discuss research and collaboration supporting cement-based materials and sustainability measures.

“Concrete plays a fundamental role in shaping modern life. Thanks to scientific and technological breakthroughs, it also is part of the solution when it comes to planning for more sustainable development,” said MIT Civil and Environmental Engineering Research Scientist and CSHub Executive Director Jeremy Gregory. “[Meetings] like this ensure that important research in this arena has the largest possible impact.”

Since its founding in 2009, CSHub has been a leader in research designed to reduce the environmental impact of concrete both in its manufacturing and its use. CSHub faculty and student work has always been collaborative, engaging an interdisciplinary team of researchers from multiple departments across the Cambridge, Mass., campus.

The meeting gave the industry leaders an opportunity to present information about sustainability trends in their regions and countries; learn about current CSHub work; and, see where there might be opportunities for cooperation. Among the current projects discussed was one in which MIT faculty and students have teamed up with researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) and the University of New Brunswick (UNB), Canada, to gain scientific understanding to improve concrete durability, including potential means to mitigate freeze-thaw and alkali-silica reactivity.

MIT is providing atomic and meso-scale modeling expertise and applications for the durability project, while OSU and UNB are contributing micro- and material macro-scale empirical expertise. “The interesting thing about the collaboration with OSU and UNB is that it was facilitated by our industry partners,” Gregory observed. “[They] knew that we had certain pieces to this puzzle and that the researchers at these other schools had some important pieces as well.”

Portland Cement Association convened the global meeting, and along with the Ready Mixed Concrete Research and Education Foundation, provides funding to the CSHub. With attendees hailing from Belgium, Columbia, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia, South Africa, China, India, and Canada, along with U.S. regions, the meeting represented a widening of the circle of leaders worldwide who can contribute to future research breakthroughs.

“We see the MIT CSHub as a hub of knowledge, a forum where the brightest minds from the academic world and private industry can connect to plan and conduct important industry research,” says PCA CEO James Toscas. “This meeting was about inviting ideas and creating new connections on the international scale. As vocal advocates for sustainability, cement manufacturers are acutely aware of the role that concrete has had—and will continue to have—in building a resilient, sustainable world. We believe connections made during this meeting will result in research partnerships and revolutionary ideas that lead to even more durable and sustainable homes, buildings, and infrastructure across the globe.”