Near-field infrared microscopy: A novel analytic mapping technique to nanocharacterize calcium silicate-based cement materials

F. Basquiroto de Souza, C. Zheng, S. Chen, Y. Liu, K. Sagoe-Crentsil and W. Duan

Cement and Concrete Research 147, 106525 (2021)
Infrared imaging via scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM) allows chemical mapping of organic and inorganic materials with nanoscale spatial resolution. However, its potential adaptation to the complex multiphase structure of Portland cement is yet to be explored. Here we demonstrate the successful implementation of s-SNOM to spatially resolve coexisting chemical phases in tricalcium silicate, Portland cement's main compound, with 20-nm resolution. We found that s-SNOM is sensitive to different anhydrous polymorphic phases, revealing nanoscale domains that are ‘invisible’ to other microscopic techniques. Furthermore, s-SNOM's ability to distinguish the unhydrated and hydrated phases signifies its great promise as an analytical tool to study the complex hydration process of cement. The key to s-SNOM's application was nano-modifying the surface roughness of the cement samples, allowing nanoscale infrared imaging without topographical artifacts. Our study opens a window for infrared spectral microscopy in cement and other porous inorganic materials.