Solid-state NMR spectroscopy of cement: Aluminum in the calcium-silicate-hydrate phase

Applications are invited for a PhD fellowship/scholarship at Graduate School of Science and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark, within the Nanoscience programme. The position is available from 1 November 2017 or later.

Solid-state NMR spectroscopy of cement: Aluminum in the calcium-silicate-hydrate phase

Research area and project description:
The PhD project will focus on the incorporation of aluminium in calcium-silicate-hydrate (C-S-H) phases - the principal binding component in Portland cement-based materials.

Concrete is the world’s most durable, reliable and economical construction material with an annual consumption in volume by society only surpassed by water. Portland cement represents the “glue” in concrete and its word-wide production is responsible for 5 – 8 % of the man-made CO2 emissions. The CO2 emission originates mainly from the decarbonation of limestone (CaCO3) and the fuels for heating the cement kilns and grinding the cement clinkers. A valuable approach to reduce CO2 emission associated with cement production is to partly replace the Portland cement by supplementary cementitious materials such as fly ashes, slags and calcined clays. These materials are generally rich in aluminium and silicon which leads to a significant modification of the composition and structure of the C-S-H phase.

The aim of the project is to determine the structural positions of Al in C-S-H phases with different Ca/Si ratios and Al contents and to quantify the amount of Al in these different environments. These data will be implemented in thermodynamic modelling approaches which currently lack consideration of Al in the C-S-H phase. The project will mainly focus on C-S-H phases synthesized in the laboratory under different conditions. The structural and quantitative information will principally be derived from 27Al and 29Si solid-state NMR experiments. A part of these experiments will be conducted at the 950 MHz spectrometer at the Center for Ultrahigh Field NMR spectroscopy at iNANO. The incorporation of the results in thermodynamic modelling will be conducted in collaboration with senior scientist Barbara Lothenbach, Empa, Switzerland, and visits to Empa for at least three months are planned during the PhD study. The scientific studies will be performed in an interdisciplinary environment, utilizing the group’s expertise in inorganic synthesis, structural characterization tools, solid-state NMR spectroscopy and thermodynamic modelling. A positive outcome of the project will provide new information about the C-S-H phase which will have an important impact on the design of new Portland cement blends with lower CO2 footprint.  

Qualifications and specific competences:
The PhD candidate should have a Master’s (3-year PhD programme) or 4-years studies (4-year PhD programme) in chemistry, nanoscience, physics, materials science, or geology. Knowledge about inorganic materials, cement chemistry, microscale characterization tools, and NMR spectroscopy will be considered as a plus.

Place of Employment and Place of Work:
The project will be performed at the Department of Chemistry and iNANO, and the PhD student will be enrolled in the iNANOSchool PhD programme (

The Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center, iNANO, was established in 2002 and has become a major research and education center at Aarhus University. The iNANO center combines research groups from the departments of Chemistry, Physics, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Biology and Engineering and strong connections to the medical faculty. The interdisciplinary approach with a focus on high quality collaborations within both academia and the industry provides a dynamic and productive environment and a strong research tradition for excellence and high impact science.

The iNANO center is highly international both in terms of academic staff and enrolled PhD students (approximately one quarter to one third international PhD students). The daily language in research groups with international students is English, and the PhD programme is provided entirely in English. Danes generally speak English very well, and international students will easily manage in English only.

Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact:

Assoc. Prof. Jørgen Skibsted, Department of Chemistry and iNANO, Langelandsgade 140, DK-8000C Aarhus, Denmark, e-mail:, phone +45 2899 2029.

Application procedures

Before you apply

Information and attachments:

Please be aware that you must have all relevant appendices, attachments, addresses for referees, etc. ready when you apply, as the entire application must be uploaded to the system in one go.

Documentation of language skills:

The English language requirement at Graduates School of Science and Technology is comparable to an “English B level” in the Danish upper secondary school (“gymnasium”).

English language qualifications comparable to an “English B level” is documented by one of the following tests:

  • TOEFL test, minimum score: 560 (paper-based test) or 83 (internet-based test)
  • IELTS (academic) test, minimum average score: 6.5 points
  • Cambridge English Language Assessment:
    Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (CPE)
    Cambridge English: Certificate of Advanced English with grade A,B or C (CAE)
    Cambridge English: First Certificate  with grade A (FCE)

When to take the test and how to upload the documentation:
The test result must not be more than two years old at the time of application.

The English language test should be taken before applying for admission and uploaded under “language skills documentation” in the online application form.

It is possible to apply for admission before you have taken the test. In this case documentation stating that you have signed up for a test (please state expected submission date) must be uploaded. If the test result is not part of the original application the test result is to be sent to no later than one month after the application deadline.

The following applicants are exempted from documenting their English qualifications/taking a test:

  • Applicants with citizenship from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, or one of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden).
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, or United States. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed at Aarhus University for which the requirement was English B level at the time of admission. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants able to document that English was the language of instruction during the whole period of their Bachelor’s and/or Master’s programme. This must be documented by uploading an official document from the institution stating this under “language skills documentation”. The onus is on the applicant to provide this information as GSST will not pursue information regarding language of instruction for any programmes or institutions.

The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

How to apply:

1)      Find the application form:
Go to
Choose August 2017 Call with deadline 1 August 2017 at 11.59 PM MET.
You will be directed to the call, and must choose the programme 'Nanoscience'

2)      Fill in the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Academic background
  • Admission
  • Financing (if any)
  • Study: In the dropdown menu you must choose the project: "Solid-state NMR spectroscopy of cement: Aluminum in the calcium-silicate-hydrate phase"
  • Source (how you found out about the call)

Next to some of the information fields you will find a number. Click on the number to get further directions on how to fill in the information field/what information is needed.

3)      Application attachments:
Please be aware that you cannot submit the application if one or several of these documents have not been uploaded.

If you wish to upload more than one document under each section, you must scan/merge all documents into one large PDF file and upload this. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like. Instead you can indicate a URL where the information is available.

Please note that all information in the application must be in Danish or English.

As a minimum all applications must include (pdf-files only, max. 20 MB, no zip):

·         Project description (½-4 pages). For technical reasons, you must upload a project description. When - as here - you apply for a specific project, please simply copy the project description above, and upload it as a PDF in the application. If you wish to, you can indicate an URL where further information can be found.  Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like.

  • Documentation of language skills if required.

After submission of the application, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with an application ID, you should use for reference if needed. The e-mail will also include a link to the application – GSST urges you to check that all mandatory data, marked with an asterisk (*), is registered correctly and all attached files are readable. In case of significant errors, you should reply to the confirmation e-mail with the correct details before the application deadline.

GSST reserves the right to verify the authenticity of your educational diploma and transcripts:

  • Request additional information to verify an application.
  • Reject the application if it is proven, or if the University has reasonable belief, that the information provided is false or if the applicant refuses to provide the requested information, whether or not an offer has already been made. 
  • For further information on applying, assessment procedures, etc. please see the GSST application guide here  

Please note:

  • The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background.