April 17, 2022

4D nanoimaging of early age cement hydration

Shiva Shirani (1), Ana Cuesta (1), Alejandro Morales-Cantero (1), Isabel Santacruz (1), Ana Diaz (2), Pavel Trtik (3), Mirko Holler (2), Alexander Rack (4), Bratislav Lukic (4), Emmanuel Brun (5), Ines R. Salcedo (6), Miguel A.G. Aranda (1)
Nature Communications. (22 December 2022). DOI: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/366499372


Ceramics, chemical engineering, civil engineering, imaging techniques


Despite a century of research, our understanding of cement dissolution and precipitation processes at early ages is very limited. This is due to the lack of methods that can image these processes with enough spatial resolution, contrast and field of view. Here, we adapt near-field ptychographic nanotomography to in situ visualise the hydration of commercial Portland cement in a record-thick capillary. At 19 h, porous C-S-H gel shell, thickness of 500 nm, covers every alite grain enclosing a water gap. The spatial dissolution rate of small alite grains in the acceleration period, ∼100 nm/h, is approximately four times faster than that of large alite grains in the deceleration stage, ∼25 nm/h. Etch-pit development has also been mapped out. This work is complemented by laboratory and synchrotron microtomographies, allowing to measure the particle size distributions with time. 4D nanoimaging will allow mechanistically study dissolution-precipitation processes including the roles of accelerators and superplasticizers.

How Our Software Was Used

3D rendering visualization was done using Dragonfly.

Author Affiliation

(1) Departamento de Química Inorgánica, Cristalografía y Mineralogía, Universidad de Málaga, 29071, Málaga, Spain
(2) Laboratory for Macromolecules and Bioimaging, Paul Scherrer Institut, 5232, Villigen PSI, Switzerland
(3) Laboratory for Neutron Scattering and Imaging, Paul Scherrer Institut, 5232, Villigen PSI, Switzerland
(4) ESRF-The European Synchrotron, 71 Rue des Martyrs, 38000, Grenoble, France
(5) Université Grenoble Alpes, Inserm UA7 STROBE, 38000, Grenoble, France
(6) Servicios Centrales de Apoyo a la Investigación, Universidad de Málaga, 29071, Málaga, Spain