School of Engineering

Staff Profile

Dr Enrico Masoero

Lecturer in Structural Engineering

Background

Work and Education

since 2013: Lecturer at Newcastle University, in Structural Engineering with specialization on Multi-scale Modelling of Materials and Structures

2015 (March-April): Visiting Professor at the Northwestern University (hosted by Prof ZP Bazant), Evanston (IL), USA

2010-2013: postdoc at the Concrete Sustainability Hub at MIT (Cambridge, MA, USA), an industry-university partnership dedicated to advancing the technology transfer from concrete nano-science into engineering practice.

2007-2010: PhD in Structural Engineering at Politecnico di Torino (Italy) in collaboration with ETH Zurich (Switzerland). The focus was on discrete simulations of building collapse. 

2004-2006: MSc in Structural Engineering at Politecnico di Torino (Italy)


2001-2004: BEng in Civil Engineering at Politecnico di Torino (Italy)


Philosophy

The cement and concrete industry is responsible for 5-8 % of manmade global CO2 emissions. Driven by the societal challenge of sustainability, the researchers are working hard to reduce the environmental impact of cement, especially given the perspective of an increasing consumption in developing countries. Empirical research is pushing the boundaries of conventional cement formulations and is developing new "greener" cements using additives, enhanced aggregates, substitutive materials, and controlled curing conditions. However, innovation entails uncertainties and the need to ensure that the new cement pastes are durable in the long term and robust in unexpected operating conditions. This goes to the hearth of the problems of generalising and extrapolating the experimental results, which requires a deeper, more fundamental mechanistic understanding. In other words, modelling is needed. 

The current models of cementitious materials and structures can typically cope only with a limited range of length and time scales. Unfortunately, concrete and cement paste are perfect examples of multi-scale materials. At the nanoscale, the cement paste is a mix of crystalline and amorphous phases whose structure and mechanics develop during precipitation from water solution. At the scale of micrometres, the cement paste looks like a powder suspension where the grains progressively grow and merge together, eventually turning the liquid paste into a solid at the onset of setting. At the macroscale, the hardening cement paste acts as a glue for stones and aggregates and creates the concrete that is used in engineering applications. In addition to this multi-scale nature in space, the formation and creep of concrete are the results of coupled deformation mechanisms that can last nanoseconds as well as years. My passion and mission as a researcher is to create bridges across these length and time scales, connecting models and experiments from the nanoscale of high-resolution experimental techniques and statistical physics, all the way up to the macroscale of continuum modelling and engineering applications. 

My experience with multi-scale modelling of fully nonlinear systems in the framework of discrete computational mechanics inspires my teaching too. I deeply enjoy teaching the fundamentals of the mechanics of materials and structures, which are the foundation for the engineers and scholars of tomorrow. I use concepts and tools from multi-scale modelling to show that the principles underlying the vibration and deformation of materials at the molecular scale are the same that govern the dynamics of landslides and the collapse of buildings at the macroscale. With this, my aim is to provide the students with an overarching vision that sets a fertile ground for a deeper appreciation of the concepts and tools (for example the special cases of Finite Element modelling and modal analysis of the dynamics of structures) that they learn during their career as students, engineers, and scholars.


Affiliations and memberships

- Chartered Civil Engineering (valid through the EU and the UK)

- Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK)

- Member of the Engineering Mechanics Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers (EMI-ASCE, USA)

- Member of the Properties of Materials Committee of the EMI–ASCE (USA)

- Member of the American Ceramics Society - Cement Division (USA)

- Member of the Italian Association of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (UK)

- Member of the Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining (UK, in progress)


Previous affiliations and memberships

American Physics Society (USA), Concrete Society (UK)



Research

My area of expertise is the theory and simulation of infrastructure materials and concrete structures. 

At the sub-micrometer scale, I am interested in the relationship between structure development, mechanics, and ageing of cement paste. To this end, I perform high-performance simulations using the Discrete Element Method (DEM), molecular dynamics, and Monte Carlo. 

I am also interested in the multi-scale modelling (length and time scales) of the rheology, mechanics, and ageing of cementitious materials. To this end, I use thermodynamic modelling, kinetic modelling, and homogenization theory.

In addition to modelling, I do experimental research on the hydration and nanostructre development of cementitious materials. My focus here is on alkali activation, cement replacements (e.g. fly ash), and on chemical synthesis of hydration products with controlled sub-micrometre morphology.


Main research themes (visit my personal website http://research.ncl.ac.uk/memms/ for detailed info... and for MOVIES!!)

- Nanostructure and nanomechanics of cement paste: precipitation from solution, creep, and ageing (modelling and experiments)

- Multi-scale modelling of cement paste and concrete: setting, hardening, sorption, and shrinkage (modelling)

- Engineering cement hydration: alkali activation and seeding (modelling and collaborative experiments)

- Collapse of buildings (modelling)


Funded research projects:

- Seeded geopolymers: turning an inconvenient waste into more sustainable cements (2015-2019: funded by the SAgE Faculty of the  Newcastle University, under the Doctoral Training Award 2015 scheme)



Collaborations, network, community:

Due to its multi-scale and multi-disciplinary nature, my research lends itself well (and necessarily) to collaborations and networking. the disciplinary areas that I am involved with encompass: structural engineering, materials science, computational mechanics, statistical mechanics, physical chemistry, cement science, and concrete technology.


Active collaborations:

- Industry: Dr JJ Thomas (Schlumberger-Doll Research, Cambridge, MA, USA), Centro Ceramico (Bologna, Italy)

- USA: Prof FJ Ulm (MIT), Prof RJM Pellenq (MIT), Prof S Yip (MIT), Prof M Bazant (MIT, Prof K Van Vliet (MIT), Prof E Del Gado (Georgetown Univ),  Dr K Ioannidou (MIT), Dr MB Pinson (Chicago Univ), Prof M Bauchy (UCLA), Prof ZP Bazant (Northwestern Univ), Prof G Cusatis

- UK: Dr F Cucinotta (Newcastle Univ, Dept Chemistry)

- France: Dr P Levitz (CNRS), Dr L Brochard (ENPC), Prof M Vandamme (ENPC), Pierre Levitz (CNRS)

- Spain: Dr H Manzano (EHU)

- Italy: Prof BM Chiaia (Politecnico di Torino), Dr B Frigo (Politecnico di Torino), Prof MC Bignozzi

- Japan: Dr PA Bonnaud (Tohoku Univ)


Engagement:

- Lead organizer of mini-symposium #21 for the conference of the Engineering Mechanics Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers (EMI – ASCE), Vanderbilt University, Nashville, USA, May 22-25 2016: “Fluid-dependent mechanics of porous materials: a focus on the nanoscale”

- member of the Groupement de Recherche Internationeaux - GdRI "Materials under the Nanoscope" (CNRS, France)

- involved in the communities of Engineering Mechanics and Ceramic Materials (CONCREEP, WCCM, ECCOMAS, ACERS)

- lead organizer of the mini-symposium #73 for the EMI 2015 conference (Engineering Mechanics Institute - American Society of Civil Engineering). The title of the symposium is "Formation, Ageing, and Failure of Cementitious Materials: Scale-Bridging Models and Insights from Glass Physics" 

- linked with the NANOCEM network in Europe


Teaching

since 2014: Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK)


Leader of the following modules at Newcastle University:

- Engineering Materials (UG in civil engineering, stage 1: 2013-now)

- Structural Mechanics (UG in civil engineering, stage 1: 2015-now)

- Multiscale Materials Modelling (MSc in structural engineering: 2014)

- Structural Collapse and Multiscale Modelling (MSc in structural engineering: 2015-now)


Contributor of the following modules at Newcastle University:

- Research Methods  (MSc in structural engineering: 2014-now)


Currently supervising:

- 1 PhD student

- 1 Postdoctoral Research Associate

- 2 MEng students in Structural Engineering


Currently tutoring 8 UG students and Stage 4 Undergraduate Tutor in Structural Engineering


Completed supervisions:

- 3 BEng students (1 Distinction and 1 Outstanding Project Award from the UK Concrete Society)

- 11 MSc students (3 Distinctions and 1 “Segre” best project award at Politecnico di Torino, Italy)

- 1 MEng student

Publications