Nanostructural characterization of geopolymers by advanced beamline techniques

John L. Provis, Ailar Hajimohammadi, Claire Emily White, Susan A. Bernal, Rupert J. Myers, Robert P. Winarski, Volker Rose, Thomas E. Proffen, Anna Llobet, Jannie S.J. Van Deventer

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37 Scopus citations


This paper presents the outcomes of a series of beamline-based studies, the results of which are combined to provide a more detailed multiscale understanding of the structure and chemistry of geopolymer binders. The range of beamline-based characterization techniques which have been applied to the study of geopolymer binders is increasing rapidly; although no single technique can provide a holistic view of binder structure across all the length scales which are of importance in determining strength development and durability, the synergy achievable through the combination of multiple beamline techniques is leading to rapid advances in knowledge in this area. Studies based around beamline infrared and X-ray fluorescence microscopy, in situ and ex situ neutron pair distribution function analysis, and nano- and micro-tomography, are combined to provide an understanding of geopolymer gel chemistry, nano- and microstructure in two and three dimensions, and the influences of seeded nucleation and precursor chemistry in these key areas. The application of advanced characterization methods in recent years has brought the understanding of geopolymer chemistry from a point, not more than a decade ago, when the analysis of the detailed chemistry of the aluminosilicate binder gel was considered intractable due to its disordered ("X-ray amorphous") nature, to the present day where the influence of key compositional parameters on nanostructure is well understood, and both gel structure and reaction kinetics can be manipulated through methods including seeding, temperature variation, and careful mix design. This paper therefore provides a review outlining the value of nanotechnology-and particularly nanostructural characterization-in the development and optimization of a new class of environmentally beneficial cements and concretes. Key engineering parameters, in particularly strength development and permeability, are determined at a nanostructural level, and so it is essential that gel structures can be analyzed and manipulated at this level; beamline-based characterization techniques are critical in providing the ability to achieve this goal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-64
Number of pages9
JournalCement and Concrete Composites
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Building and Construction
  • General Materials Science


  • Alkali-activated binder
  • Geopolymer
  • Microstructure
  • Nanostructure
  • Neutron scattering
  • Synchrotron radiation


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