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Clarkson University's Peethamparan Receives $400k NSF CAREER Award

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Clarkson University Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Sulapha Peethamparan has received $400,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

A proposal, titled "Mechanisms of Hydration Kinetics and Property Evolution in Activated Slag and Fly Ash Multi-Phase Sustainable Binder Systems," earned her the special distinction from the NSF. peethamparan

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is an NSF-wide activity that offers the foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organization.

Peethamparan’s research focuses on the development, characterization and applications of infrastructure materials, mainly cement and concrete, with an emphasis on the energy and environmental issues.

Ordinary Portland cement concrete is the one of the most commonly used man made materials in the world. The cement manufacturing process accounts for four to five percent of global CO2 emission and touches on a wide range of sustainability issues including climate change, pollution, solid waste land filling and resources depletion.

As sustainability moves to the forefront as a major initiative for the construction industries and the society as a whole, emphasis on producing concrete mixtures with increased volume fractions of supplementary cementitious materials (industrial by-products), such as ground granulated blast furnace slag and fly ash, has grown rapidly. In addition to the beneficial utilization of these waste materials that otherwise need to be land filled, consuming high volumes of slag or fly ash improves the engineering properties of concrete significantly.

However, the low reactivity of these materials is a major hindrance to the development of concrete consisting of large volumes of slag and fly ash. The activation of slag and fly ash using alkali containing external agents is a promising method to overcome this low reactivity that received wide attention recently. Due to its potential to make concrete without any significant amount of cement, the concrete made out of activated slag and fly ash is known as "cement free /cement less/geopolymer concrete."

This new generation concrete is expected to revolutionize the construction industry, with better performance, a lower CO2 foot print and lower embodied energy. However, an economically and practically viable method to implement these technologies with tight control on the properties of these concrete in the field has still not been realized.

In the proposed research, Peethamparan and her students will conduct both experimental and modeling studies to understand micro/nano scale behavior of this activated material system in order to predict and control its macro scale behavior. Peethamparan’s other research projects include CO2 sequestration in cement-based materials (NSF-funded) and behavior of oil well cements.

Peethamparan has been a faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Since July 2008. Prior to that, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University. She earned her Ph.D. from Purdue University, specializing in civil engineering materials. She regularly teaches courses in properties and performance of concrete materials, advanced concrete technology and structural analysis at Clarkson.

Outside the classroom, Peethamparan acts as the faculty advisor to the Concrete Canoe SPEED team, and the ASCE student chapter. She is an active member in the American Concrete Institute, the Transportation Research Board, ASTM International, and the Center for Advanced Cement Based Materials.

She is an associate editor of the ASCE Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering and has organized the open paper session at the American Concrete Institute Conventions since fall 2009. Peethamparan has also published several journal articles and has delivered several papers at professional and academic conferences.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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