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'Self-healing' Concrete Wins Innovation Award

10 June 2014

Costain worksites are being lined up as practical laboratories to check the properties of new, ‘self-healing’ concrete that it is hoped will save customers’ time and money in future years.

The Group won a category award in the Celebration of Technology & Innovation (CETI) awards in Huntington Beach, California, for its role in helping develop the self-healing concrete.

As part of its role in bringing innovations to market, Costain is lead industrial sponsor for the Materials for Life research project led by Cardiff University. This collaboration involves research work at Cardiff, Bath and Cambridge Universities and has attracted interest from industrial and academic partners both nationally and internationally.

The aim of the programme is to develop smart materials with increased durability and lifespan.

Self-healing concrete uses a combination of shaped memory polymers, micro-capsules and bacteria. If the concrete is damaged, these ‘added ingredients’ help restrict the growth of cracks and repair minor cracks as they appear.  Through these mechanisms, the long-term durability of concrete structures can be increased.

These properties are expected to significantly reduce maintenance costs for concrete structures over the course of their life.

Stuart Young, Europe, Middle East and Africa representative for University of Texas-based, not-for-profit organisation Fiatech, which organised the CETI awards, said the new material concept had been very well-received at the US event.

“The conference delegates loved it. Absolutely lapped it up and thought it was a great thing. It was showcased and discussed at length.” Fiatech has a global stage and many people take close interest in the way that it collaborates by bringing together industry, academia and subject matter experts.

Part of Costain’s role is to provide site trials for the material, expected to be ready for full-scale use by June 2015. “We’re at the early stages of setting up trials,” said Graduate Civil Engineer Oliver Teall, who is also a PhD student at Cardiff University. “We are considering a number of projects for trials. The most promising to date have been within the Highways sector but we are interested in trialling it elsewhere and we would welcome projects that are willing to support a trial to come forward.”

Involved in the project at an early stage was Group Innovation and Knowledge Manager, Tim Embley.

“As part of Costain’s research programme, we work with a number of universities. At Cardiff University we were involved in a programme funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and as a result of that we’ve developed this proposal with the university that allowed us to go for more funding.”

The benefits of the self-healing concrete, if it fulfils its early promise, would be felt by Costain’s customers, said Tim. “It will extend the life of key assets, optimising performance and reducing disruption of maintenance activity due to its self-healing nature. This is a new generation of advanced material at the leading edge of technology, so we expect spin-offs and other successes along the way that we’re not expecting.

“I’m delighted to see our teams are making the art of the impossible…possible.”




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