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Construction Materials and Waste Minimisation

Intelligent self-sensing/healing/regulating materials, bio-mimetic materials, low-carbon/long-life materials.

Theme 6: Construction Materials and Waste Minimisation Research Projects

Project Title

Biomimetic Infrastructure Materials

Primary Theme

Construction materials and Waste Minimisation

Secondary Themes

Asset Management, Sustainability & Urbanisation

Project Summary

The UK is committed to an investment of £100B in infrastructure by 2021 and currently spends half of its construction budget on the repair and maintenance of its mainly cement-based infrastructure, concrete, mortars, grout, and cement-modified soils, at ~£40B/year. The design of these materials is based on using safety factors for individual adverse events and providing redundancy.  Hence construction materials are designed to meet a prescribed specification; material degradation is viewed as inevitable and mitigation necessitates expensive inspection, maintenance, repair and eventually replacement regimes.  Based on recent better understanding of microbiological systems, biomimetic materials that have the ability to adapt and respond to their environment have been developed. This fundamental change has the potential to facilitate the creation of a wide range of ‘smart’ materials and intelligent structures including adaptable, self‐sensing, self-reporting, self-diagnosing, self-immunising and self‐repairing structures. These can transform our infrastructure by embedding resilience in the materials and components of these structures so that rather than being defined by individual events, they can evolve over their lifespan.  A national research consortium has been working on the development of those materials and systems through EPSRC funding, with a programme grant spanning over the next 5 years.  Engineered components developed to date include microcapsules, calcite precipitating bacteria, shrinkable polymers and vascular networks to address different scale physical damage. These developments are being taken forward to generate materials which can sense and respond to a wide range of damage (cyclic, time-related and chemical) as well as the ability to self-sense, self-diagnose and self-immunise against the approach of damage. The proposed project will develop a biomimetic infrastructure material system focusing on a particular application and addressing specific damage scenarios starting with fundamental science and validation, followed by scaling up and field applications. The project will involve the adoption of a  generic system, based on microcapsule or vascular systems, for the application and design and refinement to equip it with the capability targeted. Validation tested will then be conducted for the relevant damage scenarios and there will be the possibility of field trials.

 

Project Title

FRP-Glass Composites: A new generation of transparent, lightweight and energy efficient structural components

Primary Theme

Construction materials and Waste Minimisation

Secondary Themes

Construction design and technology, Building Physics

Project Summary

There is a high and growing demand for physical components that are transparent, lightweight, robust and energy efficient. This demand exists across several sectors, for example:  interactive display surfaces for accessing digital information; transparent, multi-functional and responsive vision panels (windows) in buildings and vehicles.  This need is currently being addressed by layered components consisting of glass infill panes that are simply supported by load bearing frames made from other materials. These components are inherently inefficient and are rarely re-used/recycled.  The recent developments in glass engineering, bonding technology and fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) materials provide an unprecedented opportunity to develop a radically different generation of structural component: FRP-Glass composites. In these novel components, the glass panes are structurally bonded to slim, stiff and thermally efficient FRP frames or shells, thereby forming a composite structural component which provides step-change improvements in strength, stiffness, robustness and operational energy efficiency, while the engineered interface between the glass and the FRP could facilitates end-of-life re-use/recycling.  The project involves investigations into the fundamental performance of the novel FRP-Glass composites that form the bases of a broad range of future real-world applications. The project should also quantify and demonstrate the benefits of FRP-Glass composites in buildings. The work will involve a combination of theoretical, numerical modelling and experimental investigations at various scales.

 

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