Research Themes

Construction Materials

Our research in this area centres on the development, characterisation and exploitation of advanced and non-traditional cement and concrete technologies. Many projects involve alkali-activated and geopolymer binders, for use in construction and infrastructure, aiming to drastically reduce the CO2 emissions footprint of the global construction materials industry. We use advanced characterisation techniques – particularly high-resolution spectroscopy (including solid-state NMR), and synchrotron and neutron beamline-based methods – to give an unsurpassed level of understanding of these new materials. We are also highly active in the technical committees of RILEM, working towards improvements in the science that underpins standards and specifications worldwide.

Focus areas

• Geopolymers – chemical and engineering properties
• Chemistry of alkali aluminosilicate gels, including thermodynamic modelling
• Other alkali-activated and Portland cement-hybrid concrete systems
• Rheology control
• Waste valorisation by alkali-activation

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Key publications

Provis, J.L.; Bernal, S.A. "Geopolymers and related alkali-activated materials", Annual Review of Materials Research, 2014, 44: 299-327.
Bernal, S.A.; Rodríguez, E.D.; Kirchheim, A.P.; Provis, J.L. “Management and valorisation of wastes through use in producing alkali-activated cement materials”, Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, 2016, 91(9): 2365-2388.
Ke, X.; Bernal, S.A.; Provis, J.L. “Controlling the reaction kinetics of sodium carbonate-activated slag cements using calcined layered double hydroxides”, Cement and Concrete Research, 2016, 81, 24-37.
Myers, R.J.; Bernal, S.A..; Provis, J.L. "Phase diagrams for alkali-activated slag binders", Cement and Concrete Research, 2017, 95: 30-38.
Mundra, S.; Criado, M.; Bernal, S.A.; Provis, J.L. "Chloride-induced corrosion of steel rebars in simulated pore solutions of alkali-activated concretes", Cement and Concrete Research, 2017, 100: 385-397.
Walkley, B.; San Nicolas, R.; Sani, M.-A.; Bernal, S.A.; van Deventer, J.S.J.; Provis, J.L. "Structural evolution of synthetic alkali-activated CaO-MgO-Na2O-Al2O3-SiO2 materials is influenced by Mg content", Cement and Concrete Research, 2017, 99: 155-171.

Key research projects

URBCON Research Project


URBCON reduces the use of raw materials and the CO2 emissions from construction and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure in cities. See more here.

ERC Starting Grant “GeopolyConc”, 2013-2018


This €1.5M project supports our world-leading research in understanding the durability of innovative low-CO2 concretes. The project spans from nanoscience to microstructure to corrosion science, and has given a new depth of insight into the processes that control the long-term performance of concretes produced without Portland cement.

EPSRC-NSFC Grant “Rational design of low-CO2 alkali-activated concretes for eco-efficiency and durability


This £1M project, conducted in partnership with colleagues in Queen’s University Belfast, Leeds University, Southeast University, Hohai University, and Hunan University of Technology, has focused on the ability to efficiently design and produce alkali-activated cements and concretes with optimised environmental and technical characteristics.

H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network


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