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Academic year
Didactic period
Secondo Semestre

Training objectives

The aim of this course is based on the close relationship between the Geosciences world and its materials (or Geomaterials) and the Material Sciences, for the development of renewable energy and sustainability in constructions. Through the know-how transfer of basic knowledge and thematic insights on critical minerals and materials, and their application in the sectors of renewable energy and building sustainability, the student will acquire skills at the interface of different scientific disciplines (such as mineralogy, ore mineralogy, petrography, engineering, ...) and will raise awareness about the concept of sustainable development. This form of development is based on the concept of environment safeguarding where living conditions and resources are used to continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural system.

The main knowledge acquired by students include:
- elements of physico-chemical characterization of materials;
- knowledge of the main natural sources of raw materials;
- basic concepts of comparative techniques for the understanding physical phenomena occurring in materials;
- knowledge of advanced techniques for alternative electricity production;
- development of knowledge on materials designed or potentially suitable for energy storage;
- knowledge of climatic impact of anthropogenic CO2 caused by the production and use of cementitious materials
- knowledge of cementitious materials and production processes of sustainable low-emission CO2 cement.


Knowledge acquired during the classes of Physics (I and II), Mineralogy and Laboratory of Mineralogy, and Petrography.

Course programme

The class is structured in two modules that include 20 and 10 lessons, respectively, of 2 hours each, namely 60 hours of frontal lectures and guided tutorials.


Climate, Energy, Materials, and Sustainability
- Course introduction & Climate change: evidences, causes, effects and solutions.
- The global energy landscape: distribution of energy resources; Economic development, energy demands, economic productivity and quality of life; Access to sustainable energy supply; Sustainability.
- The global materials landscape: critical materials, critical materials for renewables, materials supply-chain risk.
- CO2 capture and sequestration: CO2 sources; Options for sequestration; Capture technologies; Materials used in capture technologies.

Future Nonrenewables Energy Sources
- Unconventional hydrocarbons: unconventional gas and oil; Sustainable shale gas; Clathrate hydrates.
- Nuclear energy & Nuclear-waste management and disposal: the fission process; Fuel-cycles; Materials; Nuclear-wastes and their disposal.

Renewable Energy Sources
- Renewable energy overview: why renewables?; Solar energy; Photovoltaic (+ concentrating); Solar thermal (+ concentrating); Solar fuel production; Biomass; Wind Power.
- Geothermal energy.
- Wind energy: turbines, blades, rotors and towers; Inshore and offshore wind energy; Does it is sustainable?
- Photovoltaics: basic principles; Photovoltaic cells and devices; Efficiency; I, II, and III generation; Concentrating photovoltaic; The multijunction concept.
- Electrochemical energy storage - Li-ion batteries; Components; Thermodynamics and kinetics of batteries; Anodes and cathodes.

Materials: In-Depth Analysis
- Materials classification.
- Perovskites: The major mantle phase; The crystal structure; Perovskite solar cells; Lead halide perovskites; Inorganic nanocrystalline lead halide perovskite and their photoluminescence.


Low CO2 Sustainable Cements
- Impact, demand, consumption, forecasts; Value chain concept; Life cycle assessment (LCA); Circular economy
- Cement CO2 reduction outlook. The clinker level: refresh of clinker chemistry, production, and hydration processes. The cement carbon cycle.
- Basics of Rietveld method. Quantitative Phase Analysis / Rietveld of cements. Online Quantitative Phase Analysis / Rietveld at cement plant. Case studies.
- The clinker level: energy efficiency; Fuels; Supplementary Cementitious Materials (SCMs).
- The concrete level: deterioration processes; Exposure classes; Binder intensity; Structure level; Recycling concrete.
- Construction & Demolition waste; Use of recycled aggregates in concrete.
- Alternative Clinkers: Limitations from the Earth geochemistry and Basic principle of hydraulic cements; Carbonatable calcium silicate cements (CCSCs); Belite-rich Portland cement clinkers; Calcium Sulfo Aluminate (CSA) cements; Belite-Ye'elimite-Ferrite (BYF) clinkers; Hydraulic calcium silicate clinkers manufactured by hydrothermal processing; Supersulfated slag cements (SSCs); Magnesium-based cement (MC) binders; Energetically modified cements (EMCs) and Nanocements/Nano-concrete.
- Geopolymers: Introduction; Synthesis; Aluminosilicate sources; Kaolinite/metakaolinite; Microstructure; Structural models; Field applications.
- Summary of potential from alternative binders.
- Strategies for CO2 reduction in the cementitious value chain.

Didactic methods

- Frontal lectures in the classroom and remote teaching both with the possibility of online attendance (live streaming of lessons) and with material (presentations and lecture notes) available for offline attendance.
- Open discussions to verify the comprehension of covered topics.
- Possible workshops with experts from the different scientific sectors.

Learning assessment procedures

The student must write a report on a topic of his/her choice. Skills acquired during the classes have to be highlighted within the written report through examples on materials and technologies described. The report must contain a rational on the possible materials criticality employed in the discussed technology and the possible sustainability on the chosen theme.
The report (on average 5/6 pages in A4) must be sent prior the oral examination and it counts as 2/3 of the whole exam evaluation.
After the report evaluation, the student undergoes an oral test of about 30/45 minutes in which a deep knowledge of the topic developed in the written report will be requested. This knowledge will be tested through specific questions (duration 20/25 min). The oral examination will continue in the form of an open discussion on the other topics covered during the course.
The oral examination counts as 1/3 of the whole exam evaluation.

Reference texts

Teacher's handouts of the on-screen presentations used by the teacher for lectures.
Specific topics can be developed by means of the following books:
- D.S. Ginley & D. Cahen - Fundamentals of Materials for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (2012)
- M.F. Ashby - Materials and Sustainable Development (2016)