Funding for a PhD project within sustainable concrete construction

The Family Thomas Research Foundation (Familjen Thomas forskningsstiftelse) is a foundation with the aim to fund research on Sustainable concrete construction as the overarching theme.

We have invited applications for research grants to support a PhD project within this theme and a decision has now been taken regarding what project to finance.

The research grant of MSEK 7,5 has been rewarded to the PhD project: “Evolution of pozzolan incorporated concrete: Resistance to Carbonation (Carbo-Crete)”. The project is being led by Arezou Baba Ahmadi, Assistant Professor in Building materials, Chalmers University of Technology, and is designed for 5 years.


To make concrete construction sustainable, the climate effects of concrete construction need to be drastically reduced, and by 2045 it should be “climate-neutral”. Several measures need to be combined to achieve this goal:

  1. Reduce CO2 emissions from the production of cement or alternative binders
  2. Reduce use of cement clinker in the binder; i.e. develop and use alternative binders
  3. Reduce use of binder in the concrete; i.e. improve proportioning of concrete
  4. Reduce use of concrete in structures, and avoid using concrete of higher strength than required; i.e. optimize design
  5. Efficient use of thermal energy storage in buildings; i.e. optimize energy use during the life-time of a building
  6. Increase/utilize the longevity of concrete buildings and structures

The Family Thomas Research Foundation focuses, primarily, on bullets b-d above, i.e., to optimize the concrete and the structural design.

Research themes included in this call

Two subthemes are included in this call, first one focusing on design and second on material level:

  1. Smart, resource-efficient design solutions which increase the competitiveness of concrete from a sustainability perspective.
  2. Resource-efficient concrete that reduces the concrete's climate footprint, including alternative binders and proportioning to reduce binder or clinker.

A successful proposal addresses one, or both of, these subthemes.


The subthemes are further described in the following:

Subtheme 1: Resource-efficient design solutions

The first subtheme focuses on smart, resource-efficient design solutions which increase the competitiveness of concrete from a sustainability perspective. Building with concrete has advantages in many aspects: sound insulation, thermal mass, fire-safety, durability, etc. Accordingly, concrete is used for many applications for both buildings and infrastructure, such as foundations, slabs, columns, and walls. To handle the carbon footprint associated with concrete structures, smart, resource-efficient design solutions which minimize the use of concrete in different applications are needed. The aim is to improve material utilization and minimize material consumption. Various methods can be applied, e.g., optimization of topology, shape, size, use of prestressing. A successful proposal addresses applications and methods with potential for large savings in total consumption.

Subtheme 2: Resource-efficient concrete

The second subtheme focuses on resource-efficient concrete, i.e., methods to reduce the climate footprint of the concrete material as such. Both alternative binders, and improved proportioning to reduce binder or clinker content, can be considered. The most explored alternative binders include coal combustion fly ash, ground granulated blast furnace slag and natural pozzolans, such as calcined clays and volcanic ashes. The availability of coal fly ash and slag will soon be low, as the climate crisis calls for reduced use of coal in power plants and steel industry. Consequently, other alternatives are of main interest in this call. Examples of research questions concern quality control, high replacement levels, mechanical and durability properties. Optimization of the mix design can be reached using different methods, e.g. by utilizing materials with low water demand, adding filler material, or by optimizing the particle size distribution. Production is a major challenge; more advanced production plants are required, and production at large volumes exhibits uncertainties.