Alexander Brand, Ph.D., P.E., is an Assistant Professor in the Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and was recently awarded back-to-back Le Chatelier Distinguished Paper awards from the journal Cement and Concrete Research for papers published in 2019 and 2020. Both awards were announced in 2022. The two papers were:

Brand, A. S., Gorham, J. M., and Bullard, J. W. (2019). “Dissolution rate spectra of β-dicalcium silicate in water of varying activity.” Cement and Concrete Research, 118, 69–83. DOI:10.1016/j.cemconres.2019.02.014

Brand, A. S., Feldman, S. B., Stutzman, P. E., Ievlev, A. V., Lorenz, M., Pagan, D. C., Nair, S., Gorham, J. M., and Bullard, J. W. (2020). “Dissolution and initial hydration behavior of tricalcium aluminate in low activity sulfate solutions.” Cement and Concrete Research, 130, 105989. DOI:10.1016/j.cemconres.2020.105989

Each calendar year, the journal selects three Le Chatelier Distinguished Paper awards and one Le Chatelier Medal award. The awards are named in honor of Henri Louis Le Chatelier for his contributions to chemical sciences and the chemistry of portland cement, which was his dissertation topic. The famous principle that is named after him – Le Chatelier’s Principle – is a foundational concept in chemistry and is also used to understand the complex chemical reactions involved in cement hydration.

Cement and Concrete Research is the preeminent journal in the field of materials science and engineering of cements, mortars, concretes, and other cementitious materials. The journal is highly selective with an acceptance rate of 15% and an impact factor of 11.958. Dr. Brand’s awarded papers were one of only 287 published in 2019 and one of 256 published in 2020.

Dr. Brand’s research focuses on the materials science of civil infrastructure, with particular expertise in cement chemistry, micro- and nanostructure characterization, and hydration kinetics. The research in the awarded papers was focused on understanding the dissolution kinetics of specific minerals found in portland cement. This research was initiated by Dr. Brand while he was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Inorganic Materials Group of the Materials and Structural Systems Division in the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The research aims to derive the fundamental rates and mechanisms that govern dissolution in order to better understand what happens within the first few seconds to minutes of introducing water to portland cement. These kinetic data are also necessary to drive development of the next generation of cement hydration models.

This research involves the use of quantitative phase microscopy (QPM) to track real-time dissolution of a surface at the nanoscale under in situ conditions. This pioneering work was completed by Dr. Brand at NIST using a QPM method known as digital holographic microscopy. At Virginia Tech, Dr. Brand collaborates with Dr. Yizheng Zhu in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to use a QPM technique known as spectral modulation interferometry. The latest collaborative research has focused on using the technique to track in situ corrosion of aluminum alloy surfaces at the nanoscale. These techniques provide 3D surface topography data with submicron pixel sizes and nanoscale vertical resolution, allowing the researchers to track the dissolution and corrosion in real time by measuring changes in surface topography at these scales.

The 2019 article was published with data collected while Dr. Brand was at NIST. The 2020 article included data collected at NIST and at Virginia Tech. The 2020 article also includes collaborations with researchers at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source.