Levich Institute Seminar Announcement, 10/09/2018
Tuesday, 10/09/2018
2:00 PM
Steinman Hall, Room #312
(Chemical Engineering Conference Room)

Professor Emanuela Del Gado
Georgetown University
Department of Physics

“Sustainable Concrete and Cement: A Soft Matter in Construction”


Concrete and cement are the foundation of our global infrastructure and have a key role in the growth which is required to support a world population projected to surge past 9 billion by mid-century, with more than 70% of it living in urban areas. More than 20 billion tons of concrete are produced every year, more than any other material on Earth, such that concrete production is responsible for 10% of the whole anthropogenic production of CO2. Reducing CO2 emissions for concrete production, designing and optimizing material performances, resilience and durability is hence crucial to a sustainable growth and to meet Greet House Emissions reduction goals.Strength and other mechanical properties of concrete rely on cement (its main binding agent) and the control of the formation/gelation of calcium-silicate-hydrates (C-S-H). Lack of scientific insight into the structure and mechanics of C-S-H is a major obstacle to optimizing material performances and developing greener formulations of concrete. In recent years electron microscopy imaging, nano-indentation tests, X-rays and neutron scattering, NMR analysis, and atomistic simulations have elucidated several structural and mechanical features concentrated within a few nanometers. A potential breakthrough has been combining such experimental insights with novel fundamental understanding gained through modeling and numerical simulations, which use statistical and condensed matter physics approaches to tackle the structural and mechanical complexity of the material over critical lengthscales. These achievements provide novel opportunities to transform cement production and use.


Emanuela Del Gado received her undergraduate degree (Laurea in Physics, cum laude) at the University of Naples “Federico II” in Italy, where she also obtained a PhD in Physics in 2001. She was a Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Montpellier in France and a post-doctoral researcher at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, and held visiting positions at ESPCI Paris and MIT. Before joining Georgetown University as Associate Professor with tenure in 2014, Emanuela was a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at ETH Zurich. In 2016 and 2018 she was awarded a Chair Joliot and a Paris Science Chair at ESPCI Paris. In 2017 she became Georgetown University Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor and was MIT – CEE C.C. MEI Distinguished Speaker, and in 2018 became Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.


Emanuela is a theoretical physicist working on engineering motivated, interdisciplinary problems. Part of her research is in rheology of gel networks and dense suspensions, in collaboration with other experimental /theoretical physicists and engineers. She uses statistical mechanics and computational physics to investigate soft materials from model amorphous solids, gels and glasses, to new green formulations of cement. She is also interested in self-assembly at liquid interfaces, biomimetic coatings and mechanics of tissues.