GOALI: Investigation of Cyclic Failure in Aluminosilicate Nanocomposites

Aluminosilicate material composites are a new breed of multifunctional alkali-bonded ceramic composites with advanced properties such as low density, high strength, high thermal stability, and low shrinkage. However, the resistance to cyclic failure of aluminosilicate nanocomposites is poorly known. The lack of knowledge reduces the widespread integration of aluminosilicate nanohybrids in science and industry despite their many advantages. Our research goal is to understand the influence of heterogeneity and porosity on the fatigue processes at the nano- and micrometer lengthscales in nanoreinforced aluminosilicate composites. The proposed research is organized around three major objectives: (i) Generate fatigue crack growth curves for homogeneous aluminosilicate materials using novel depth-sensing experiments, (ii) Investigate the influence of pore size on the fatigue behavior for porous aluminosilicates, and (iii) Investigate microstructure-fatigue relationships in nano-reinforced aluminosilicate composites.

Funding source: National Science Foundation Division of Materials Research.


  • Fatigue Response of Metakaolin-Based Geopolymer, 46th International Conference and Expo on Advanced Ceramics and Composites, Virtual Meeting, Jan 23-28, 2022.
  • Fatigue Response of Aluminosilicate Composites, 47th International Conference and Expo on Advanced Ceramics and Composites, Jan. 22–27th, 2023, Daytona Beach, FL.
  • Yunzhi Xu, Haklae Lee, Nathanial Buettner, Ange-Therese Akono, Multiwalled Carbon Nanotubes as Hard Templates to Yield Advanced Geopolymer-Based Self-Assembled Nanostructured Ceramics, Mechanics Research Communications, Under Revision.

Advanced Scaffolds for Bone Regenerative Engineering

Bone is the second most transplanted tissue worldwide with two million procedures conducted annually. The clinical gold standard is to harvest an autologous graft and implant after reconstruction. However, the supply is limited and complications are a common occurrence. The research objective is to design advanced bone scaffolds by application of materials science and physics of materials.

Funding source: National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health.


  • Ange-Therese Akono, Patient-specific tissue engineering using emerging nanostructured inorganic polymers for bone regeneration, Oral Presentation, Building Up Cohort, May 2021, Northwestern University.
  • Ange-Therese Akono, Xinlong Wang, Chongwen Duan, Guillermo Ameer, In vitro biocompatibility of nanostructured inorganic polymers for bone regeneration, Poster, Building Up Final Meeting, June 2021, Northwestern University.
  • Ange-Therese Akono, Xinlong Wang, Chongwen Duan, Guillermo Ameer, Biocompatibility of Geopolymer for Bone Tissue Regenerative Engineering, Oral Presentation, 46th International Conference & Expo on Advanced Ceramics and Composites, Daytona Beach, FL, January 23–28, 2022.

Fundamental Structure-Property Relationships in Nanoreinforced Cement

Cement accounts for 8% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. this figure is set to rise due to the exploding world populations and the increasing urbanization. Thus, to foster city growth and sustainable development, novel cements must be discovered with enhanced performance and a reduced carbon footprint. Nanomaterials offer the advantage to ally performance with multifunctionality. The research objective is to understand the influence of nanomaterials on the nanostructure, chemistry, and mechanical properties of Portland cement. The results will inform the design of advanced green construction materials for smart cities.

Funding source: National Science Foundation.


Strong and Multifunctional Geopolymer Composites: A Multi-Scale Study

Geo polymers are amorphous inorganic polymers that result from the reaction between an aluminosilicate source and an alkali metal hydroxide or silicate solution. They present various appealing attributes such as rapid hardening, early strength, low shrinkage, freeze-thaw resistance and excellent acid resistance.  The research objective is to build novel multi-scale computational approaches that can connect the effective response to the micro- and nano- constituents.  The project will promote the use of geopolymer composites as low-carbon Portland cement alternative, low-level nuclear waste containment, heavy metal waste encapsulation, and biomaterials for bone regeneration.

Funding source: National Science Foundation.


Geochemical Reactions Within the Context of CO2 Geological Sequestration

Geologic carbon sequestration in deep saline aquifers is an emerging approach for mitigating climate change by trapping CO2 in suitable geological formations. The research objective is to explore the influence of rock-fluid interactions on  the microstructure, composition, and mechanical characteristics. Furthermore, a full knowledge of geochemical reactions in reservoir conditions and their implications on mechanical integrity will inform exploratory field studies of CO2 geological capture and storage.

Funding Source: U. S. Department of Energy, Center for Geological Storage of CO2.


Fundamental Studies of Recycled Aggregate Concrete

Recycling demolition and natural disaster concrete waste for new concrete production offers a sustainable approach to supply the rising demand of sand, but remains poorly utilized. The basic idea consists in reusing crushed old concrete from demolition projects, estimated at 200M tons per year in the United States alone, to cast new concrete. The research goal is to improve the performance of recycled aggregates to transform them into a suitable alternative to sand.