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University of Bradford in ground-breaking research into self-healing construction materials

Published: Fri 17 Mar 2017

Ground-breaking research, involving The University of Bradford, into the development of self-healing concrete that could lead to huge savings in maintenance costs and greater protection for the UK's infrastructure has received fresh funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The Resilient Materials 4 Life (RM4L) project supported with an investment of £4.7 million by EPSRC, will look to build on the success of the Materials 4 Life (M4L) project that has led to major advances in the development of transformative construction materials, such as adaptable, self-diagnosing and self-healing materials.

RM4L will be led by Cardiff University, the University of Cambridge, the University of Bath and the University of Bradford as well as industry partners. The overall project cost will be around £6 million, including contributions from partners.

M4L was announced in 2013, and led to a number of developments in the field of these innovative new technologies, including the UK’s first self-healing concrete trials using materials such as shape-memory polymers, microcapsules and flow networks containing mineral-based healing agents and calcite forming bacteria.

As part of RM4L, researchers will aim to effect a transformation in construction materials by using the biomimetic approach first adopted in M4L to create smart materials that will adapt to their environment, develop immunity to harmful actions, self-diagnose the onset of deterioration and self-heal when damage.

The project’s findings will benefit bodies and companies responsible for the provision, management and maintenance of built environment infrastructure, and the researchers will work with industry partners in the construction supply chain throughout the duration of RM4L.

RM4L represents a further boost for infrastructure research in the UK, after EPSRC announced an investment of £125 million to support the establishment of the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) at 14 universities, earlier this month.

Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of EPSRC, said: “Resilient Materials 4 Life has the potential to revolutionise the way our infrastructure copes with long-term wear and tear and reduce costs significantly.”  

“Moreover, as part of EPSRC’s continuing support for world-leading research in this vital field it will help, through the upgrading of the nation’s infrastructure, to keep the UK a prosperous and resilient nation.”

Professor John Sweeney of the University of Bradford said: “Here at Bradford we will be developing and producing novel and sophisticated shape memory polymers. These will form the basis of a range of smart devices to be incorporated into structural concrete, to act in conjunction with mechanisms developed at the partner universities to produce strong and self-healing civil engineering structures. This is a great boost to Bradford’s expertise in polymer science and technology at a national and international level, and underlines our status as a world-leading technology University.”

Professor Bob Lark, PI for the project welcomed the news of the award by saying: “This is a wonderful opportunity to build on the exciting findings of M4L to ensure that we address the full range of complex damage and response scenarios that are experienced by construction materials.”

“We are confident that our research will have a significant impact on the sustainability of our infrastructure and we are very grateful to EPSRC for their vote of confidence in what we are endeavouring to achieve.”

UKCRIC to deliver world-leading research on cities and infrastructure [EPSRC]

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