MiSTI UTC for Materials in Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure

Portland Cement Concrete Materials Research

Michigan Tech has state-of-the-art research and testing capabilities for characterizing and mixing PCC materials. The center piece of the materials characterization capabilities is the petrographic capabilities housed in four laboratories managed under the Non-Conductive/Volatile Materials Characterization Facilitiy. For mixture production and physical testing, the newly-renovated Benedict Laboratory provides 15,000 square feet of additional concrete research space that includes a high-bay area for structural testing, an aggregate crushing and sieving facility, mortar and ultra-high performance concrete preparation area, concrete mixing facility, freeze-thaw testing, and multiple curing chambers. Our facilities are CCRL inspected and AMRL accredited for aggregate and concrete, ensuring quality control over laboratory procedures.

Personnel and Experience

Dr. Lawrence Sutter
Dr. Lawrence Sutter
Director, Michigan Tech Transportation Institute
Director, University Transportation Center for Materials in Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure (UTC-MiSTI)
Director of the Facility for Non-Conductive/ Volatile Materials
Chair of the UTC-MiSTI Research Task Group

Dr. Sutter specializes in materials characterization, cement and concrete chemistry, concrete durability, and industrial residual reuse in concrete. Current projects include: research on the effects of deicing chemicals used on roads, coal fly ash specifications, and concrete mix design optimization.

Chemical and Physical Properties of Michigan Quarried Aggregate Source: Development of an On-line Database (pdf)

A New Approach to Specifying Fly Ash for Use in Paving Concrete (pdf)

The Deleterious Chemical Effects of Concentrated Deicing Solutions on Portland Cement Concrete (pdf)

A New Low-Cost Approach for Determining the Air-Void System Parameters in Hardened Concrete (pdf)

Contact Dr. Sutter


Dr. Theresa Ahlborn
Dr. Theresa Ahlborn, PE
Associate Professor
Co-director, Michigan Concrete Initiative
Director, Center for Structural Durability
Director, Benedict Laboratories

Dr. Ahlborn specializes in concrete materials related to prestressed concrete bridges, including high performance and ultra-high performance concretes (UHPC) applications for structural durability. Current projects include: UHPC structural durability performance, condition assessment and repair of adjacent box-beam bridges, and rapid repair solutions for prefabricated (decked) prestressed beams.

Contact Dr. Ahlborn

Dr. Jacob Hiller
Dr. Jacob Hiller
Assistant Professor

Dr. Hiller's research focuses on pavement mechanics and the interaction between materials, analysis and performance. Current research includes the efficient use of recycled concrete in transportation infrastructure.

Contact Dr. Hiller


Dr. Devin Harrisr
Dr. Devin Harris
Donald F. and Rose Ann Tomasini Assistant Professor in Structural Engineering

Dr. Harris is the Donald F. and Rose Ann Tomasini Assistant Professor in structural engineering in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Michigan Technological University. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2004 and 2007, respectively and his B.S. from the University of Florida in 1999. His research interests include all aspects of structural engineering, with a main focus on bridges and innovative materials for civil infrastructure.

Contact Dr. Harris

Visit Dr. Harris' web page

Available Facilities for Portland Cement Based Materials Research

The Michigan Tech University transportation research team has available to it a wide array of equipment and facilities for researching portland cement based materials. Currently, we are seeking CCRL certification starting in 2006. The characterization equipment listed below is predominantly situated in four laboratories on the sixth and seventh floors of the Minerals and Materials Engineering Building. These laboratories are managed under the Non-Conductive/Volatile Materials Characterization Facility. The mechanical testing and concrete making equipment is located in the newly acquired Benedict Laboratory and in the basement of Dillman Hall.

Electron Optics Facilities

Seven electron microscopes are available for research use, each interfaced to a Windows NT network for data management and digital image printing using a dye sublimation printer at a resolution of 1200 dpi. Specific instruments and attachments include:

  • A new Philips XL40 environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM). The Philips ESEM is equipped with an EDAX energy dispersive x-ray analyzer system (EDS) for determining phase chemistry and a TSL orientation image mapping (OIM) system for determination of crystallographic orientation of phases using electron backscattered Kikuchi patterns. A Fullam tensile and compression stage is available, as well as a variety of temperature-environmental stages that provide a full range of environmental conditions. It is housed in the Non-Conductive/Volatile Materials Characterization Facility.
  • A JEOL 6400 scanning electron microscope (SEM) and a JEOL 35C SEM. Each JEOL SEM is equipped with backscattered electron detectors, Oxford eXL EDS systems, and Oxford LEMAS Stage Automation systems. The JEOL 6400 SEM is also equipped with an Oxford EBSP analyzer system that is used to determine the crystallographic orientation of phases within a specimen using electron backscattered Kikuchi patterns.
  • JEOL 8600 electron microprobe (EMPA) with four wavelength dispersive X-ray spectrometers (WDS), an Oxford eXL EDS systems, and an Oxford LEMAS Spectrometer & Stage Automation system.
  • All JEOL SEMs and the EMPA are equipped with Oxford Featurescan quantitative image analysis systems including Phase Distribution Analysis (PDA).
  • A JEOL 4000 FX and two JEOL 100 CX scanning transmission electron microscopes (STEM) equipped with Oxford eXL EDS systems and Featurescan quantitative image analysis systems.
  • Perkin-Elmer 660 scanning Auger microscope (SAM).

X-Ray Analytical Microscope

The TMRC recently acquired an x-ray analytical microscope, making it the first laboratory in North America in possession of this new instrumentation:

  • Oxford/Horiba XGT-2000W x-ray analytical microscope with capabilities for performing x-ray microanalysis of specimens at atmospheric pressure, x-ray mapping, and x-ray imaging. This is a newly developed instrument for imaging and analyzing materials using a focused x-ray flux. It has been ordered with delivery expected in the near future, and will be housed in the Non-Conductive/Volatile Materials Characterization Facility.

Optical Microscopy-Petrographic Facilities

Complete facilities are available for optical petrographic microscopy. The following microscopes are available:

  • Olympus BX-60 petrographic microscope equipped for plane polarized, cross polarized, and UV illumination. System includes an Optronics 3 chip color CCD camera and on-chip frame averaging capabilities. Microscope is interfaced to an Apple Power PC 7300/200 with a Scion frame grabber capable of 30 frames per second acquisition and NIH Image 1.62 image analysis software.
  • Olympus SZH-10 stereo zoom optical microscope equipped for conventional and UV illumination. System includes an Optronics 3 chip color CCD camera and on-chip frame averaging capabilities. Microscope is interfaced to an Apple Power PC 8500/300 with a Scion frame grabber capable of 30 frames per second acquisition and NIH Image 1.62 image analysis software. A Prior 2-axis automated stage with four inches of stage travel and software for performing ASTM C 457 air void system analysis.
  • Olympus PME-3 metallographic optical microscopes.
  • Olympus PMG-3 metallographic optical microscopes.
  • Olympus SZ60 stereo microscopes.
  • Two Olympus PMG-3 optical microscopes are equipped with a Hitachi VK-C360 Color Video Camera for video image capture.
  • One Olympus PME-3 optical microscope is interfaced to a LECO 2001 automated image analysis system.
  • Zeiss Axiomat.
  • Multiple dark room facilities for film development and reproduction are available.

X-ray Diffraction and X-ray Spectrometry Facilities

A fully equipped X-ray diffraction (XRD) facility is available for powder diffraction, phase identification, crystal orientation, texture, high temperature diffraction, quantitative analysis, structure determination, and profile fitting. Also X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) facilities are available for bulk chemical analysis. Equipment includes:

  • Scintag XDS-2000 automated diffractometer featuring a q/q vertical goniometer.
  • Scintag XDS-2000 automated diffractometer featuring a 3-axis Pole figure, Texture, and Stress (PTS) horizontal goniometer.
  • Siemens D-500 automated diffractometer featuring a q/2q vertical goniometer.
  • Siemens Type-F manual/automated diffractometer with an Anton Paar high temperature vacuum sample chamber on a horizontal goniometer.
  • Picker Nuclear manual/automated diffractometer.
  • Philips Electronic Instruments X-ray generator and 4 track tube tower featuring a Polaroid back reflection Laue camera. Various other camera attachments are available.
  • Rigaku small angle scattering goniometer.
  • Picker Nuclear manual diffractometer featuring a horizontal goniometer.
  • General Electric XRD-5 X-ray generator with two 3 track tube towers. Camera attachments available are Polaroid back reflection Laue, Cut film (back reflection and transmission) Laue cameras, Debye-Scherrer powder diffraction cameras, and various specialty cameras.
  • ARL Fisons 9400 X-ray wavelength dispersive fluorescence spectrometer for bulk chemical analysis of all elements from boron to uranium.

Digital Image Processing Capabilities

The TMRC has been active in pursuing alternative avenues for conducting ASTM C 457. One promising approach is based on the analysis of digital images captured using a flatbed scanner. A method has been developed that discriminates between the various concrete phases allowing an automated ASTM C 457 analysis to be completed. One limiting factor in the previous research was the inadequate resolution obtainable using a conventional flatbed scanner. To address this limitation, the following ultra high-resolution flatbed scanner has been acquired:

  • A CreoScitex Eversmart Pro II high-resolution flatbed scanner featuring Scitex Stitch scanning technology with 3,175 x 8000 dpi maximum optical resolution. It has been demonstrated that the required 10 mm resolution is achievable with this scanner.

Microstructural Characterization Sample Preparation Facilities

All the necessary facilities are available for the preparation of specimens for characterization and mechanical test analysis including:

  • Lapmaster precision lapping machine for final polishing of large slabs.
  • Dansk-Beton Technic precision thin-section grinder for preparing thin sections of uniform thickness.
  • Buehler Vibromet 1 vibratory polisher.
  • Buehler Ecomet 4 variable speed grinder/polisher with Automet 2 power head.
  • Diamond Pacific 24 inch lapping wheel.
  • Buehler Isomet 1000 precision saw.
  • Ingram Laboratories Model 103 thin section cut-off saw.
  • Ingram Laboratories Model 204 thin section grinder.
  • Logitech CS 10 thin section cut-off saw.
  • Logitech IU 30 vacuum impregnation chamber with articulated epoxy injector.
  • LECO GR-20 grinding wheels.
  • LECO AP-50 Automatic Polishing Machine.
  • LECO AP-300 Automatic Polishing Machine.
  • Multiple 36-inch diameter diamond bladed section saws for operation with either water or oil cooling medium.
  • Conductive coating facilities for electron microscope sample preparation.
  • Tyler and Gilson Sieves.
  • Precision temperature controlled 30 cubic foot Despatch LEB Series drying oven.
  • Jones Riffles.
  • Laboratory scale crushers and grinders including gyratory, jaw, cone, roller, and short head crushers plus ball, roll, and gyratory grinders.

Particle Characterization Equipment

An extensive particle characterization facility is also available including:

  • Microtrac SRA particle sizer.
  • Micromeritics Sedigraph 5100 particle sizer.
  • Micromeritics GeoPyc 1380 Autopycnometer for bulk particle density measurements.
  • Two Micromeritics AccuPyc 1330 Autopycnometer for apparent particle density measurements.
  • Barnstead-Thermolyne SSDetect automated fine aggregate saturated surface dry bulk specific gravity equipment.
  • Two Micromeritics ASAP-2000 BET surface analyzers.
  • Coulter N4MD sub-micron particle sizer.
  • Fisher sub-sieve sizer.
  • Frantz iso-dynamic separator.
  • PEN-KEM Lazer Zee Model 501 zeta potential meter.
  • Micromeritics 9320 mercury porosimeter.
  • Coulter Porometer II porosimeter.
  • LECO SC-432 sulfur-carbon determinator.
  • Chemical analysis by atomic absorption (AA) and inductively coupled plasma (ICP) spectroscopy, and thermal analysis by differential thermal analysis (DTA).
  • High temperature muffle furnaces.
  • Full wet chemistry laboratory facilities.

Mechanical and Dynamic Testing

Mechanical and dynamic testing facilities are available for compression, tension, bending, and fatigue testing of all engineering materials. A variety of computer operated mechanical test frames are available including:

  • MTS 55 kip servo-hydraulic stiff-frame system with Test-Star II digital control and a 6 g.p.m. hydraulic pump with Russell temperature control cabinet (-40o to 200o C).
  • MTS 55 kip servo-hydraulic structural actuators (2) with 10 in. stroke with 30 g.p.m. hydraulic pump. Especially suitable for the testing of very ductile materials or large specimens.
  • MTS 407 digital controllers with function generator, AC and DC conditioning, PC communication links, load or displacement control, and cabling.
  • Self-reacting load frame with several configuration options for large scale testing.
  • Syntech 20 kip electromechanical system with digital control.
  • Additional mechanical test frames are available with load capacities up to 1,000,000 pounds.
  • Split-Hopkins Bar for testing aggregates/portland cement concrete and determination of dynamic fracture characteristics.
  • V-meter ultrasonic testing system.
  • Portable computer with digital oscilloscope and arbitrary waveform generator couple with a 400 watt bipolar power supply for control of dynamic testing.
  • Resonant column device for soil, asphalt, concrete and rock.
  • AET5000 acoustic emission instrument with four channels of data acquisition.
  • IOtech DaqBook 200 for dynamic acquisition, capabilities include vibration measurements, accelerator conditioning, load cell measurements, temperature, and low pass filtering.
  • Ten Mark L1 geophones, 1Hz (1 volt/g) accelerometer, and two 3-D Hz geophones.
  • Six single axis and two tri-axial accelerometers with voltage output conversion boxes.

Data Acquisition and Other Equipment

In addition to the data acquisition systems specifically mentioned above for use with testing equipment, the following acquisition systems and miscellaneous equipment is available for research laboratory use:

  • OPTIM Megadac 3016, portable for field testing and monitoring
  • Dynamic sampling rate of up to 25,000 samp/sec
  • 40 channels of 120-ohm resistance for , and full bridge
  • 24 channels of voltage readout
  • Voltage excitation source of +5V or 15V
  • 8 channels of vibrating wire and thermistor readout
  • IEEE connection: AT-GPIB/TNT with software for DOS/Windows for fast data transfer
  • Standard terminal junction boxes and cabling
  • Backup power supplies and surge protectors
  • LVDTs and DCDTs with stroke ranging from 0.1-in. to 4-in. travel, are available for PI use
  • Load cells ranging from 2 kips to 1000 kips are available
  • Hydraulic hand-actuators, torque wrenches, cabling for field monitoring projects, etc.

Concrete Preparation Laboratories

All necessary facilities are available for the preparation of mortar and concrete to prepare specimens for characterization and mechanical test analysis including:

  • Fully equipped concrete laboratory for mixing and performing wet concrete tests, including slump, pressure and volumetric air content, and maturity
  • 10 ft³ mortar type mixer, 7.5 HP electric motor, 220V / 3 phase/ 60 Hz, rubber blades, duo tread retractable axle with 16-in tires.
  • 3 ft³ four-paddle rotating drum mixer, 1/3 HP motor, portable.
  • 4 ft³ Croker RP100 CUMFLOW XD pan mixer.
  • 60 quart mixer, Model BTF060 from Food Equipment Direct.
  • 3-20 quart mixers
  • 9 ft³ custom concrete steam curing chamber
  • 20 in2 vibrating table.
  • Moist cure room and lime water baths with temperature control.
  • Multiple molds for cylindrical, cubes, and prisms for sample preparation.

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