Blast furnace slag is a non-metallic byproduct generated by the production of iron and steel in a blast furnace at temperatures in the range of 1400°-1600° C. The alkali activation of blast furnace slag has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of cementitious materials and to be applied in geographic zones where weather is a factor that negatively affects performance of materials based on Ordinary Portland Cement. Alkali-activated blast furnace slag cements have been studied since the 1930s due to its high compressive strength; they can exceed 100 MPa in 28 days. The low Ca/Si ratio in slag improves its resistance to aggressive chemical materials such as acids, chlorides and sulphates. Blast furnace slag is a highly heterogeneous material. It is well known that its chemical composition affects the physical properties of the alkali activated material, however there is little work on how these inhomogeneities affect the microstructure and pore formation. In this study we characterize slag cement activated with KOH using several methods: x-ray diffraction (XRD), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), x-ray microanalysis (EDS), and quantitative element mapping. Attention is focused on delineating the phases induced by the alkali activation, as these phases are important in determining the mechanical properties of the material. For the alkaline activated slag, we found four phases. One phase was the particles carried over from the unactivated slag, but with significant changes in the chemical composition. In addition, three other phases were found -- one is rich in hydrotalcite and two phases were calcium aluminum silicate hydrate (C-A-S-H) is predominant.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Blast furnaces--By-products; Scanning electron microscopy; X-ray microanalysis

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Imaging Science (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)


Richard Hailstone

Advisor/Committee Member

Benjamin Varela

Advisor/Committee Member

Joseph Hornak


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes