How does Earth do chemistry? And how does Earth's chemistry do mechanics? These questions have become of fundamental importance to engineering processes that take advantage of Earth’s making capabilities and the structures it creates to produce more sustainable materials. Reactions underground use environmentally benign rock materials and a solvent like water, which is very powerful especially under hydrothermal temperatures. We are studying rock micro- and nanostructures and processes to make the most out of Earth's resources and functions, and sustainably advance us as civilization.
A Geo-Inspired Cement
As with biomimicry, which has brought us many transformative materials that take inspiration from biological structures (e.g., Velcro and gecko-adhesives) we are using geomimicry to engineer a cement with lower carbon footprint that mimics rock cementation and the physico-chemistry it brings.
Reinforcing cement at the nanoscale
Active regions of the Earth's crust function as large-scale kiln factories — they pulverize aluminosilicate rocks to the micron or finer scale, and internally channel heat that primes the fine material for fluid-mediated reactions. We are taking advantage of nanoscale engineering and natural conditions to grow nanofibers in the lab (right) that mimic rock cement microstructures (left, cementitious nanofibers in fault gauges, courtesy of S. Siman-Tov).