• Chair,
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Centrale Nantes and EDYCEM unveil their new research priorities for sustainable construction

Centrale Nantes and EDYCEM present their new research orientations for ready-mix concrete, precast concrete and aggregates to reduce the environmental footprint in concrete design.

on March 15, 2024

Jean-Baptiste Avrillier, directeur de Centrale Nantes
Jean-Baptiste Avrillier, directeur de Centrale Nantes
EDYCEM's collaboration with Centrale Nantes dates back more than twenty years, driven by the desire to work on research projects involving cementitious materials, in particular self-compacting concrete and concrete with low environmental impact.

The work of the second EDYCEM - Centrale Nantes Research Chair resulted in a breakthrough in the formulation of low-clinker concretes. Their mechanical behavior, slow deformation and durability with respect to carbonation were studied. Imane El Khaldi, a PhD student at the Research Institute in Civil and Mechanical Engineering (GeM), won the 2023 prize for best scientific contribution at the Congrès Français de Génie Civil (CFGC) for her work on a new indicator. This indicator characterizes the carbon footprint of new-generation concretes, while taking into account their durability in the face of corrosion.

3 major research themes

The work of the third Chair will address three major themes, in line with Centrale Nantes' strategic areas of focus: energy transition, digital technology and AI, and health issues related to heat islands.

Reducing the environmental footprint in concrete design

EDYCEM and Centrale Nantes are considering the possibility of further reducing clinker while seeking satisfactory properties from an early stage. They will be studying workability by monitoring rheology and its stability over time, as well as mechanical strength over the first few hours of concrete placing to ensure rapid form removal, even in winter. Shrinkage and cracking sensitivity, which include viscoelastic properties, must also be controlled. EDYCEM aims to use the data collected in this study to promote the use of low-carbon binders in national standards bodies.

In addition to traditional cements, alternative binders will also be explored: biomass ash, crystallized slag, clays, fine recycled concrete aggregates, in order to compare the performance of a wide range of alternative binders. Another area on which the future Research Chair will focus is testing the incorporation of high rates of recycled aggregates to limit the use of marine or alluvial sands, in order to further reduce the environmental impact of concrete.

The contribution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to new-generation concretes

While concrete made with Portland cement has enjoyed widespread recognition among specialists for over a century, the time scale for exploring new-generation concretes containing less clinker and more additions promises to be much shorter, as the urgency of climate change drives their use. This is a major challenge, which requires gathering as much data as possible and analyzing it in a short space of time, in order to predict the mechanical behavior and durability of these new materials.
The aim of this work, combining computer simulation and practical tests in laboratories and concrete mixing plants, is to develop new concretes with low environmental impact, taking into account their physico-chemical evolution throughout the construction life cycle. The structural aspect will also feature in the exploratory research, with the development of eco-design methods for the streamlined use of concrete and steel.

Contributing to the city of tomorrow

At a time when health issues took priority, cities were largely left to their own devices, so it's time to strike the right balance. The development of housing and infrastructure changes the rate at which groundwater is filtered, with the associated risk of flooding, but also the formation of "urban heat islands" (UHIs) through radiative trapping (multiple reflections and solar absorption) and aeraulic confinement of urban canyons.

EDYCEM and Centrale Nantes will explore ways of controlling these phenomena through the study of pavement surfacing.

Daniel Robin, signatory of the 1st Chair, Olivier Collin, Managing Director of Edycem, and Jean-Baptiste Avrillier, Director of Centrale Nantes.

Learn more about the EDYCEM - Centrale Nantes Chair
Published on March 19, 2024 Updated on March 20, 2024