This research develops a single-point solution to simultaneously address issues of energy efficiency and thermal damage linked deterioration of concrete elements through phase change effects. The incorporation of phase change materials (PCMs) with a suitable phase transition temperature and enthalpy allows a passive system such as concrete to provide temperature-linked storage and release of thermal energy. This phase change behavior is beneficially harnessed to: (i) limit temperature rise and associated deformations and stresses to reduce the risk of thermal cracking in concrete elements and (ii) facilitate the regulation of the internal ambient temperature in buildings through heat absorption and release from PCMs. A suite of interrelated studies at the material-scale comprises the characterization of heat signatures related to cement hydration and phase transformation, delivery strategies for the chosen PCMs in concrete and its survivability, and the thermo-mechanical evaluation of the composite as a function of PCM type, volume and extent of dispersion. At the system-scale, studies will evaluate the ability of PCMs to limit thermal cracking in restrained concrete members and enhance the energy efficiency of concrete enclosures. A detailed understanding of the material- and system-level interactions will help correlate structure-engineering property relationships for the PCM-concrete composite. The multi-physics design approach provides a better understanding of the material response and facilitates the deployment of these novel multi-functional materials in concrete applications.
This research provides dynamic solutions to the energetic challenges of the built environment. Reductions in building energy consumption and the resultant shift of the buildings HVAC loads from peak to off-peak hours enables and rationalizes power-grid efficiency. Auto-adaptive, phase change solutions are harnessed to limit thermal damage caused by environmental forces in restrained concretes resulting in improved structural service-life and durability. By making holistic contributions towards the energy efficiency and durability of infrastructure, this research drives a new paradigm in ensuring a sustainable built environment. From an educational perspective, this research will train graduate and undergraduate students on important multi-disciplinary problems pertaining to energy-efficient and damage-resistant material design. Modules on energy efficient construction materials will also be developed for middle and high school students. Rapid dissemination of the research to the broader research and practicing community will be accomplished through scientific publications and presentations, industrial workshops and professional education courses.