Apr 19, 2023, 12:00 pm1:00 pm
Bowen Hall Auditorium 222


Event Description

From bench-top chemistry to 3D printing a tower

Abstract: Digital fabrication with concrete has been touted as a new era for the construction sector, bringing enhanced productivity, reduced environmental footprints, and just about any other improvement one may wish in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC). Beyond the hype and the buzz, we will examine what digital fabrication really has to offer AEC, how this may be implemented and what the implications are in terms of sustainability.

Beyond these general considerations, we will examine the exciting materials chemistry of setting on demand, a process through which the flow, setting and hardening of concrete can be controlled by chemical admixtures. In this context, we will underline the key differences, opportunities, and challenges for one versus two components approaches to digital concrete. We will see how accelerators can enhance fabrication efficiency, while also introduce specific processing challenges calling for inline reactors to activate concrete before just before its placing. This in turn imposes constraints on the concrete mix design, generally raising its environmental impact.

Moving on from processing issues to fabrication of large-scale elements and structures, we will briefly examine how questions structural integrity, reinforcement integration and durability are dealt with. This will bring us to the White Tower of Mulegns, an ongoing demonstration project pushing the limits of 3D printing in AEC, and serving as a knowledge integrator of material chemistry, processing, structural mechanics, and architectural design.

Bio: Robert J. Flatt is Professor for Physical Chemistry of Building Materials at ETH Zürich since 2010. Before that he was Principal Scientist at Sika Technology AG for 8.5 years and postdoctoral researcher at the Princeton University for 2.5 years.  He owns a master in Chemical Engineering and a PhD from EPFL (Switzerland).

His main research topic is the working mechanisms of chemical admixtures, which can be considered as the “spices” of concrete. Hi interests lay in the molecular design of such admixtures to achieve targeted improvements of macroscopic properties, in particular for reducing the environmental footprint of concrete. This work naturally feeds into research on digital fabrication with concrete, which is developed within the Swiss National Competence Centre on Digital Fabrication in Architecture. Another topic of interest is the preservation of stone in built cultural heritage.

Recently, Robert co-edited the book “Science and Technology of Concrete Admixtures” with Prof. Pierre-Claude Aïticn. He has also received several awards including the RILEM Medal as well as the Ross Coffin Purdy and the Stephen Brunauer awards from the American Ceramic Society.

All seminars are held on Wednesdays from 12:00 noon-1:00 p.m. in the Bowen Hall Auditorium Room 222. A light lunch is provided at 11:30 a.m. in the Bowen Hall Atrium immediately prior to the seminar.