For engineering materials in our daily environment (e.g. from cement and concrete to clay sediments or materials for waste storage) understanding the relationship between their complex, hierarchical microstructure and the long term evolution of transport or mechanical properties is at the basis of improving durability and sustainability. Nano- and micro-scale processes, from ion and water transport to local evolution of composition and morphology, drive the evolution and aging of their mechanical properties and may lead toward functional failure and structural deterioration.
The effort of rationalizing such aging processes (e.g. concrete creep or time evolution of ceramic materials under chemical or radioactive stress but also plasticity in polycrystalline metals) is crucial for the environmental and economical impact but is still at its infancy. These materials are typically characterized by a complex mesoscale organization ranging from nanometer to macroscopic scale. The way the different levels of the structure affect the mechanical evolution is generally complex and far from being captured by simple models assuming either scale invariance or scale separability‚ as often done in large scale engineering approaches.
Computational physical chemistry, statistical physics and experimental approaches designed for glasses and amorphous materials can give insight into this critical range of length-scales from nanometers to microns. They can address the fundamental questions of how the cohesion at the level of the nanoscale component is translated into cohesion and mechanics of the mesoscale organization, of what is the role of local plastic processes in the long term mechanical aging of amorphous materials, of how ultimately these features can be suitably designed at the nano- or micro-scale level.
Creating a direct exchange between this world and the engineering research community focused on problems such as life cycling analysis and diagnostics, durability, sustainability has unique potential for ultimately linking the nano-scale processes and insights up to the impact and consequences that manifest at the macroscale. With this in mind, this workshop brings together physicists, chemists, material scientists and engineers working in academic and industrial research, with expertise on different materials and techniques, to promote the discussion on a bottom-up approach, where computational and statistical physical chemistry approaches for the mesoscale organization of engineering materials can be combined with larger length scales approaches that are common in engineering.