Laura Powers

Laura Powers

Principal Petrographer & Materials Scientist

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Ms. Powers excels in evaluating construction and geological materials using polarized-light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy with x-ray spectroscopy, electron probe microanalysis, x-ray fluorescence, x-ray diffraction, and other investigative methods. She has coordinated and conducted numerous field and laboratory investigations of materials behavior and condition, and has provided expert testimony in numerous litigation cases. Her principal focus lies in assessing the performance of existing, historic, and new construction through detailed analysis of compositional and microstructural characteristics. Materials examined include concrete, mortar, stucco, terrazzo, dimension stone, fired and unfired clay products, gypsum-based products, refractories and fireproofing, decorative and protective coatings, and more.

Ms. Powers has participated in research to promote understanding of diverse topics that include: internal curing of concrete; autogenous shrinkage of high-performance concrete; sequestration of biohazardous and low-level radioactive substances in cementitious systems; radionuclide migration in concrete; performance of concrete in aggressive environments; the effects of sudden and prolonged heating on concrete and masonry; shotcrete quality and performance; stability of concrete in a simulated lunar environment; process influences on portland cement clinker; the effects of natural weathering on building stone, laser ablation cleaning of stone; and distress mechanisms such as delayed ettringite formation, sulfate attack, alkali-aggregate reactions, and chemical attack. She publishes and presents her work at conferences and other venues, and is a staff mentor.


M.S. in Geology

University of Saskatchewan – Saskatoon, Canada, 1985


B.S. in Geology

University of Massachusetts – Amherst, 1977


Hou, Xiaoqiang, Powers, Laura, Lawler, John, Tureyen, Koray, 2015. Thaumasite Sulfate Attack: Case Studies and Implications, Proceedings of the 37th International Conference on Cement Microscopy, ICMA, Seattle, Washington.

Golovich, E. C., Mattigod, S. V., Snyder, M. M. V., Powers, L. J., Whyatt, G. A., and Wellman, D. M., 2014. Radionuclide Migration through Sediment and Concrete: 16 Years of Investigations, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory report to U. S. Department of Energy, National Technical Information Service, November.

Walloch, Craig, Speck, Jeff, and Powers, Laura, 2014. Effect of Internal Curing on Freeze-Thaw Durability of Dry-Cast Concrete Segmental Retaining Wall Units and Solid Interlocking Concrete Paving Units, ASTM STP 1577, 29 p.

Powers, Laura J., Papas, Susanne M., 2011. Petrographic Analysis of Historic Mortars, Masonry Edge/Story Pole. V. 6 n. 2.

Powers, L. J, 2011. Microscopical Studies of Mortar Made with Lunar Aggregate, Proceedings of the Thirty-Third International Conference on Cement Microscopy, ICMA, San Francisco, California.

Powers, L. J. and Papas, S. M., 2010. The Importance of Petrographic Examination in Compositional Analysis of Mortar, Proceedings of the Thirty-Second International Conference on Cement Microscopy, ICMA, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Wellman, D. M., Bovaird, C. C., Mattigod, S. V., Parker, K. E. Clayton, L. N., Powers, L. and Wood, 2009. Cementitious Wasteforms for Immobilization of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes, M. I. in Concrete Materials: Properties, Performance and Applications, editor: J. T. Sentowski, Nova Science Publishers, Inc., Chapter 5.

Wellman, D. M., Parker, K. E., Powers, L., Whyatt, G. A., Clayton, L. N., Mattigod, S. V., and Wood, M. I., 2008. Effect of Iron and Carbonation on the Diffusion of Iodine and Rhenium in Waste Encasement Concrete and Soil Fill Material under Hydraulically Unsaturated Conditions, , Applied Geochemistry, Vol. 23, Issue 8, August, pp. 2256 – 2271.

Bortz, S. A., Powers, L., and Wonneberger, B., 2007. Comparison of Field Testing with Laboratory Testing of the Durability of Dimension Stone, ASTM STP 1499, pp 138-153.

K.C. Normandin, L. Powers, D. Slaton, and M.J. Scheffler, 2005. The Potential Use of Laser Ablation for Selective Cleaning of Indiana Limestone, Springer proceedings in physics, 2007, Vol. 116, Lasers in the Conservation of Artworks – LACONA VI Proceedings, Vienna, Austria, Sept. 21-25, pp 65-73.

Powers, L. J. and Shrimer, F. T., 2007. Quantification of ASR in Concrete: An Introduction to the Damage-Rating Index Method, SCP Symposium and Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth International Conference on Cement Microscopy, ICMA, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

Powers, L. J., 2007. Microchemical Tests for Concrete Petrography, SCP Symposium and Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth International Conference on Cement Microscopy, ICMA, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

Powers, L., Coleman, A., and Papas, S., 2007. A Discussion of the Benefits and Problems of ASTM C 1324 for Analyzing Hardened Masonry Mortars, Journal of ASTM International, Mar., Vol. 4, No. 2.

Cong, D. X., Reed, M. H., Powers, L. J., Shotwell, B. L. and Brown, B. D., 2006. Relationship Between Indentation Hardness and Water-to-Cement Ratio of Hardened Mortar and Concrete, Journal of ASTM International, Feb., Vol. 3, No. 2.

Powers, L. J., 2006. The Power of Petrography, Structure Magazine, Jan., Vol. 3, No. 2, pp 25-28.


Powers, L. J. and Walsh, J., 2005. A New Look at an Old Cement, Proceedings of the Twenty-Seventh International Conference on Cement Microscopy, ICMA, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Miller, F. M., Powers, L., Zdunowska, J. and Zemaitis, J., 2004. Clinker Comparisons Wet vs. Dry, World Cement, Vol. 35: No. 4, April, pp 127-135.

Detwiler, R. J., Taylor, P. C. and Powers, L. J., 2004. Ettringite Deposits in Voids, Transportation Research Record, Concrete, No. 1893, pp 75-80.

Erlin, B., Nasvik, J. and Powers, L., 2003. How Much Curing Is Enough? Concrete Construction, Dec., pp 45-47.

Gebler, S. H., Powers, L., Willems, T. and Detwiler, R., 2002. Petrographic Examination Used to Analyze a Distressed Sewer Line Coating, Journal of Protective Coatings and Linings, Vol. 19, No. 5, May, pp 49-52.

Powers, L. J., 2002. Petrography as a Concrete Repair Tool, Concrete Repair Bulletin, Jan./Feb., pp 22-25.

Detwiler, R. J., Powers, L. J., Hjorth Jakobsen, U., Ahmed. W. U., Schrivener, K. L., and Kjellson, K.O., 2001. Preparing Specimens for Microscopy, Concrete International, Vol. 23, No. 11, pp. 50-58.

Detwiler, R. J., Taylor, P. C., Powers, L. J., Corley, W. G., Delles, J.B., and Johnson, B. R., 2000. Assessment of Concrete in Sulfate Soils, Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities, August, pp. 89-96.

Miller, F. M., Detwiler, R. J., and Powers, L. J., 2000. Investigation of Deteriorated Concrete in Pavements, Research and Development Serial No. 2197, Portland Cement Association, Skokie, IL.

Powers, L. J., 1999. Developments in Alkali-Silica Gel Detection, Concrete Technology Today, Vol. 20, No 1, April, pp. 5-7.

Detwiler, J. R., and Powers-Couche, L. J., Ettringite, 1999. Effect of Sulfates in Concrete on Their Resistance to Freezing and Thawing, The Sometimes Host of Destruction, ACI SP 177, Bernard Erlin Editor, pp. 219-247.

Powers, L. J., 1999. Investigation of an Historic Portland Cement Stucco, Proceedings, Seventh Euroseminar on Microscopy Applied to Building Materials, Delft, The Netherlands.

Miller, F., M., Powers, L. J., and Taylor, P. C., 1998. Investigation of Discoloration of Concrete Slabs, Research and Development Bulletin RD 2228, Portland Cement Association, Skokie, Illinois.

Lin, T. D., Bhattacharja, S., Powers-Couche, L., Skaar, S. B., Horiguchi, T., Saeki, N., Munaf, D., Peng, Y. N., and Casanova, I., 1998. Lunar and Martian Resource Utilization – Cement and Concrete, Abstracts, Workshop on Using In Situ Resources for Construction of Planetary Outposts, April 30-May 1, Albuquerque, New Mexico. p 35.

Detwiler, R. J., and Powers-Couche, L. J., 1997. Effect of Ettringite on Frost Resistance, Concrete Technology Today, Vol. 18, No. 3, December, pp. 1-4.

Powers-Couche, L. J., and Lin, T. D., 1996. Behavior of Fresh Mortar in a Vacuum and Microstructure of Mortar Hardened in a Vacuum, in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Space, Vol. 1, pp 608-613.

Gebler, S. H., Litvin, A., and Powers-Couche, L. J., 1996. Effect of Shotcrete Quality on Cracking of Swimming Pools, Proceedings of the Concrete for Infrastructure and Utilities, E&FN Spon, London, England, pp. 275-285.

Lin, W. M., Lin, T. D., and Powers-Couche, L. J., 1196. Microstructures of Fire-Damaged Concrete, American Concrete Institute, Materials Journal, Vol.93, No. 3, pp. 199-205.

Powers-Couche, L. J., and Miller, F. M., 1996. A Tale of Two Kiln Burners, Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Conference on Cement Microscopy, ICMA, Duncanville, Texas, pp. 74-84.


Powers-Couche, L. J., 1994. Observations of Concrete Exposed to Very High Temperature, Proceedings of the Sixteenth International Conference on Cement Microscopy, ICMA, Duncanville, Texas, pp. 369-376.

Powers-Couche, 1993. L. J., Fire-Damaged Concrete – Up Close, Concrete Repair Digest, December 1992/January.

Powers-Couche, L. J., 1993. Petrographic Analysis of Concrete and Related Building Materials, Geological Society of America, North-Central Section Meeting, 29-30 March, Rolla, MO, Abstracts with Programs, Vol/Issue 25:3; 27.

Powers-Couche, L. J., 1992. Microscopical Examination of a Slag Cement Concrete, Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference on Cement Microscopy, ICMA, Duncanville, Texas, pp. 256-258.

Powers-Couche, L. J., 1991. Petrography Provides Results; Gives Insight into Concrete Distress, Concrete Trader, June, pp. 1 and 3.

Prior to 1990, authored/co-authored five peer-reviewed papers in the fields of economic geology, geochemistry, and biochemistry, published in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

  • American Concrete Institute
  • Association for Preservation Technology Western Great Lakes Chapter (APTWGLC)
  • ASTM International
  • Geological Society of America
  • Mineralogical Society of America
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • Society of Concrete Petrographers
  • State Microscopical Society of Illinois

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