Design of alkali-activated material with maximised recycle content

Grantham Scholar Laura Stefanini researches binders & mortars, waste valorisation & the control of CO2 emissions to maximise replacement of raw materials & cement. 

Laura is a PhD researcher in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. She is a member of both the Cements@Sheffield and Sustainable Materials at Sheffield (CBE) research teams.

Laura joined the University of Sheffield in May 2019 to start her PhD project on the Design of alkali-activated material with maximised recycle content (URBCON, NWE Interreg).

Previously, she completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering at Politecnico di Milano, Italy (2015), followed by two Master’s Degrees at Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain, in Sustainable Chemistry (MSc, 2017) and in Environmental and Industrial Safety (MEng, 2018). During those years in Valencia Laura joined the ITQ (Instituto de Tecnología Química) Research Centre to develop projects in the field of the Green and Sustainable Chemistry and mainly focused on heterogeneous catalysis and on the removal of contaminants from the environment.

The project

The focus of my PhD project is the study of chemical and engineering properties of alkali-activated binders and mortars, with a particular interest on early-age properties. The aim is waste valorisation (the process of converting waste into more valuable products) and the control of CO2 emissions by alkali-activation of industrial by-products to maximise the replacement of raw materials and cement, in agreement with a sustainable development in the construction and environmental sector. 


The Grantham Centre at COP. Every year, we send Grantham Scholars to COP as official observers for the University of Sheffield. Doing so gives our people an opportunity to see how global climate change policy is made – or not – and to meet other sustainability experts. In 2022, Laura was one of the group who went to Egypt for COP27.

Laura Stefanini publications

In September 2021, Laura worked with Hope For The Future to produce: Cement and Concrete How concrete action can protect us from climate change. This brief looks at decarbonising cement production with a focus on getting UK MPs to take action because taking action now is crucial if we are to meet our climate targets.

Stefanini L, Walkley B and Provis JL (2023). Investigating the retarding effect of CAC in alkali-activated cements. Front. Mater. 10:1212177. doi: 10.3389/fmats.2023.1212177


Professor John L Provis

Department of Materials Science and Engineering


Dr Brant Walkley

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering