MIT Professor Oral Buyukozturk, in his efforts to improve sustainability has focus his research on three areas: durable materials and resilient structures, sensor systems, and energy-efficient buildings. One of his suggestions for improving the sustainability of buildings/infrastructure is to improve the ingredients used to create them, namely concrete.
One way that Buyukozturk wants to improve concrete is by replacing Portland cement in its mixture with locally available additives such as volcanic ash. He claims that performance would not be sacrificed and there will be environmental benefits:
One challenge is optimizing the mix designs for a wide range of potential additives. Buyukozturk says his research group is developing computer models of cement paste for connecting nano- and microscale composition and structure with macroscale engineering properties. These models are informed with experimental characteristics regarding the chemical composition, morphology, and porosity, and take a bottom-up design methodology widely utilized by nature, where biological materials form hierarchical structures through the assembly of smaller building blocks.