Group Overview

With the world facing a climate crisis due to the effects of anthropogenic CO2 emissions and associated global warming, key scientific research is required to aid reducing the impact society has on the environment.

The Sustainable Cements Group (SCG) at Princeton University is a multi-disciplined research group addressing the sustainability challenge facing cementitious materials and related systems. The main focus of the group centers on understanding and optimizing engineering and environmental materials, with an emphasis on controlling the chemical mechanisms responsible for formation and long-term degradation of sustainable cements. Other areas of research include conventional cements, new materials for carbon dioxide capture and utilization, industrial waste recycling, and fundamentals of silicates dissolution. This research spans multiple length and time scales, utilizing advanced synchrotron and neutron-based experimental techniques, and simulation methodologies founded at the nanoscale. A component of Dr. White’s research involves technique development (experiment and simulation) and advanced data analysis methods, including synchrotron-based micro-pair distribution function analysis and coarse-grained simulation methods.

Associate Professor Claire White leads the Sustainable Cements Group (SCG) at Princeton University. The group is situated in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.


October 2021 – A belated welcome to graduate students Anita Zhang and Jordan Hamel! And a belated belated warm welcome to Debra Keiser, now a second year graduate student (in Chemistry). Recent papers from the group include a study on the impact of slag composition on accelerated carbonation of alkali-activated slag (here), predicting calcium (magnesium) aluminosilicate glass reactivity using molecular modeling (here), use of pair distribution function computed microtomography to uncover the local structure at fiber/alkali-activated metakaolin interface (here), and the reaction kinetics of the formation of hydroxide-activated slag via molecular modeling and pair distribution function analysis  (here).

January 2021 – Couple of recent(ish) papers from the group. Dr. Blake Yang had two recent papers published in Cement and Concrete Research. The first on the pore structure of alkali-activated metakaolin and the development of a coarse-grained Monte Carlo simulation approach to predict pore structure (found here). The second paper focuses on the very early stages of C-S-H, C-A-S-H and C-(N)-A-S-H precipitation, prior to nucleation and growth using density functional theory (found here and is open access). Dr. Kai Gong recently published a paper on the atomic structure of a CaO-MgO-Al2O3-SiO2 glass (blast furnace slag composition) in Physical Review Materials, which utilizes total scattering and atomistic simulations to uncover new information on the local environment of calcium and magnesium (found here). Finally, a review paper by Jannie van Deventer, Rupert Myers and myself was published in Waste and Biomass Valorization, with a focus on low-CO2 cements, their chemistries and associated performance properties (including durability). This paper can be found here.

January 2021 -Happy New Year! The new year brings new (and old) news. Back in August 2020 Dr. Sean Zheng (PhD from UC Berkeley) started as a Andlinger Distinguished Postdoc Fellow. A belated welcome to Sean! Dr. Kai Gong departed the Sustainable Cements Group late in 2020 for a postdoc position at MIT. Congrats Kai! And welcome to Dr. Yige Zhang (PhD from University of Colorado, Boulder), the latest postdoc to join the group!

September 2020 – There is a postdoc opening focused on the dissolution of silicate minerals in subsurface conditions relevant to CO2 storage. More details can be found at: Start date within the next couple of months.

September 2020 – Extremely belated congratulations to Blake for obtaining his PhD! Congrats Dr. Yang!

January 2020 – Couple of recent papers from the group. Firstly, former undergraduate, Sarah Yang, had her senior thesis research published in Cement and Concrete Research which can be found here. Secondly, based on the award Assoc. Prof. White received from RILEM, her invited letter is now published in RILEM Technical Letters (open access) and is available here. Check out the article which uses the energy industry as an example of how multiple technologies are being used to reduce CO2 emissions, and compares and contrasts this industry with the concrete industry.

January 2020 – Exciting times with the planning of the Second Target Station at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and what new science can be explored with these advanced capabilities.

November 2019 – Meet Littlefoot the brontosaurus. Fun times at the Advanced Photon Source!

November 2019 – Congrats to Dr. Gong! Kai gave an excellent thesis defense of his PhD research. Thesis title: Alkali-activated Slags: Mechanisms of Formation and Sulfate-induced Degradation

Kai defending his thesis.

Our recent work on the impact of sodium on the structure of C-S-H gel can be found here, led by former postdoc (now assistant professor) Nishant Garg.

October 2019 – A belated welcome to 1st year graduate student, Xiangru Jian!! Xiangru joins us from Tongji University where he completed his undergraduate degree.

Group photo august 2019. LtoR: Blake Yang, Liwu Mo (visiting professor), Eric McCaslin, Claire White, Jiaqi Li (visiting PhD student), Christina Siakati (visiting PhD student), Kai Gong.

July 2019 – Dr. White has been promoted to Associate Professor.

Recent paper on impact of alkalis, and their ordering, on the stability of C-S-H: Symmetry-induced stability in alkali-doped calcium silicate hydrate in J. Phys. Chem. C

Check out our latest paper on the reaction mechanisms occurring during alkali-activated of slag: In situ quasi-elastic neutron scattering study on the water dynamics and reaction mechanisms in alkali-activated slags, in Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys.

Our paper, Drying-induced Atomic Structural Rearrangements in Sodium-based Calcium-alumino-silicate-hydrate Gel and the Mitigating Effects of ZrO2 Nanoparticles, in Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. was named as a HOT manuscript in 2018. Congrats Blake (1st author) and rest of the team.

Farewell and good luck to Dr. Ongun Ozcelik and Dr. Nishant Garg. Ongun is at UCSD as a postdoc working with Prof. Paesani. Nishant is an Assistant Prof. at UIUC in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department.

Group photo September 2018. LtoR: Kai Gong, Nishant Garg, Maria Curria, Christine Pu, Claire White, Bastien Wild, Blake Yang.

September 2018 – Welcome Christine Pu and Maria Curria! Christine and Maria are CEE graduate students joining the group.

April 2018 – Congratulations to (1) Kai Gong on being awarded the Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Fellowship from Princeton University for his 5th year of his PhD, and (2) Sarah Wang (senior undergrad) on receiving an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship!!

March 2018 – Check out Kengran (Blake) Yang’s (grad student) new paper:
Drying-induced Atomic Structural Rearrangements in Sodium-based Calcium-alumino-silicate-hydrate Gel and the Mitigating Effects of ZrO2 Nanoparticles

Check out Kai Gong’s (grad student) new paper:
Nanoscale chemical degradation mechanisms of sulfate attack in alkali-activated slag

A new paper has appeared in Nano Letters:
Highly surface-active Ca(OH)2 monolayer as a CO2 capture material

Check out a new paper from the group:
Impact of activator chemistry on permeability of alkali-activated slags

September 2017 – Welcome Karina Alventosa! Karina is a CEE graduate student in the group and joins us from industry.

A belated goodbye to Arne Peys (visiting PhD student). Arne visited SCG for 6 months working on the atomic structure of non-ferrous slags and alkali-activated materials synthesized using these slags.

Dr. White received an NSF CAREER award (started July 2016), which is highlighted in an issue of the American Ceramic Society Bulletin (click here).

Check out our new papers:
Impact of chemical variability of ground granulated blast-furnace slag on the phase formation in alkali-activated slag pastes
Modeling the formation of alkali aluminosilicate gels at the mesoscale using coarse-grained Monte Carlo 

July 2016 – A belated welcome to Eric McCaslin. Eric is a CBE graduate student (started Fall 2015) who completed his undergraduate studies at Georgia Tech.

February 2016 – Welcome to Nishant Garg. Nishant joins the group as a postdoc, having completed his PhD last year at Aarhus University.

December 2015 – A belated welcome to V. Ongun Ozcelik. Ongun joined the group in October as a postdoc. He completed his PhD earlier this year at Bilkent University.

December 2015 – Group photo in front of the new Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment building!

From L to R: Ongun Ozcelik, Claire White, Anna Blyth, Kengran (Blake) Yang, Pierre-Marie Nigay (visiting postdoc) and Kai Gong. Photographer: Enrico Sassoni.

September 2015 – Antoine Morandeau departed in July this year for an academic position at Ecole Supérieure d’Ingénieurs des Travail de la Construction de Caen (ESITC-Caen) in France.

Check out our new(ish) papers:
Role of Magnesium-Stabilized Amorphous Calcium Carbonate Mitigating the Extent of Carbonation in Alkali-Activated Slag,
In Situ X-ray Pair Distribution Function Analysis of Accelerated Carbonation of a Synthetic Calcium-Silicate-Hydrate Gel, and
Nanoscale Heterogeneities in a Fractured Alkali-Activated Slag Binder: A Helium Ion Microscopy Analysis

March 2015 – A belated welcome to Maria Elia Natali, who is visiting our group for 6 months. Maria is a PhD student from the University of Bologna.

November 2014 – Check out our new paper on the atomic scale ordering in conventional and alkali-activated cements: Intrinsic Differences in Atomic Ordering of Calcium (Alumino)Silicate Hydrates in Conventional and Alkali-Activated Cements

September 2014 – Two new grad students are starting in the group this semester, Kengran (Blake) Yang and Kai Gong. Welcome Blake and Kai.

August 2014 – Angela and Kevin, two high school students working in the group this summer, are featured in an article on the Princeton homepage. The article can be found here.

June 2014 – Welcome Thomas Berti. Thomas is a visiting Masters student from France who will be working with us until September.

June 2014 – Welcome Angela Mao and Kevin Shen. Angela and Kevin are high school students working in the group this summer as a part of the Laboratory Learning Program.

June 2014 – Welcome Kristina Bennett. Kristina will be working in the group this summer as a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) student at Princeton University. She is majoring in Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University.

The Princeton Alumni Weekly magazine recently contained a piece on Claire White and sustainable cement research. The article can be found here. Another article can be found here from eariler in the year.

Catherine Eiben will be giving an oral presentation at the 5th Advances in Cement-Based Materials: Characterization, Processing, Modeling and Sensing (ACerS), July 9-11 in Cookeville, TN. She will be presenting her recent research on the permeability of alkali-activated slag cements.

Recent publication – “Uncovering the True Atomic Structure of Disordered Materials: The Structure of a Hydrated Amorphous Magnesium Carbonate (MgCO3⋅3D2O)” is available in Chemistry of Materials.

November 2013 – Welcome Dr. Antoine Morandeau. Antoine is a postdoc in the group and joins us from Ifsttar and Unité de Recherche Navier (Université Paris Est Marne la Vallée) where he recently completed his PhD. Congratulations and welcome.

September 2013 – We have two undergraduate senior year thesis students who will be working in the group this year. Clarissa Wilbur and Jarred Mihalik. Welcome Clarissa and Jarred!

September 2013 – Welcome Catherine Eiben! Catherine is a Masters of Science in Engineering student and will be conducting a thesis on sustainable cements. She joins us from industry, having worked for a couple of years in an engineering firm after completion of a BEng. (Civil) at Cornell University.

August 2013 – Dr. Claire White started at Princeton University and is settling into life on campus.