Professor Karen Scrivener graduated from University of Cambridge in 1979 in Materials Science. She went on to do a PhD on “The Microstructural Development during the Hydration of Portland Cement” at Imperial College, London completed in 1984. She remained at Imperial College until 1995 as Royal Society Research Fellow and then lecturer, heading the Cement and Concrete Group in the Department of Materials. In 1995 she joined the Central Research Laboratories of Lafarge near Lyon in France as Head of research on Calcium Aluminate cements and expert of concrete durability in general. In March 2001 she was appointed as Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Building Materials, Department of Materials at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at Lausanne (EPFL, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), Switzerland. She created and is co-ordinating NANOCEM – the industrial-academic research network on cement and concrete which brings together 15 industrial and 24 academic partners. She is Editor-in-Chief of the leading academic journal in the field – Cement and Concrete Research.
Our research interests concern all aspects of the materials science of cementitious materials. We combine advance microstructural characterisation techniques with modelling tools to understand the micro and nanoscale mechanisms governing the performance of concrete. Much of our works in directed to increasing the sustainability of cementitious materials which are the most used materials in the world and due to the enormous volumes involved account for 5-8% of man-made CO2 emissions. We have several projects concerned with understanding the mechanisms of hydration (the chemical process of reaction between cement and water which leads to setting and hardening). Here we have developed a powerful modelling platform capable of simulating the reaction of many millions of particles in a few hours. On the experimental side we employ scanning electron microscopy; X-ray diffraction, isothermal calorimetry, etc to follow the progress of the reaction and the development of microstructure. We are also developing models to link microstructure to mechanical properties. Other projects concern the study of degradation reactions which may affect concrete during its service life, in particular we have long running programme in association with the Federal Authorities to predict the progress of Alkli Silica Reaction with is causing expansion of a number of Swiss Dams.