Adams holding a concrete sample

The Romans used concrete extensively thousands of years ago, and surprisingly, that seemingly solid concrete poured in ancient Rome is still reacting today. “It’s still changing, almost like it’s alive,” Matthew Adams explains. There is still a lot we don’t know about the way concrete reacts over the long term with the addition of different materials, and he aims to find out.

Matthew’s research focuses on calcium aluminate — an alternative to Portland cement — and the feasibility of using recycled concrete as aggregate. Although calcium aluminate has a number of desirable properties like resistance to corrosion, abrasion and heat, there have been structural issues when it’s used incorrectly. Likewise, recycling concrete has faced resistance over a perception that it’s an inferior product more susceptible to cracking. Matthew is testing different binders for calcium aluminate and recycled aggregate, continuing a millennia-old tradition of trying to make stronger, more durable concrete.

“This is on the very edge of science and engineering. There’s no great equation, there isn’t a simple answer,” he says.

Kerneos Aluminate Technologies and the Graduate School have been funding Matthew’s research through an OSU Foundation fellowship since 2012. The support allows him to thoroughly explore the implications of calcium aluminate materials as he works toward his doctorate. It also means he can accomplish a fundamental part of scientific inquiry: attempting to understand the unknown. For Matthew, the unknown becomes a little more concrete every day.

To learn more, visit the Ideker Group