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Sponsorship For 'Self-Healing'

14 October 2013

Structures made from self-healing materials could soon be a significant step closer, thanks to Costain-sponsored research that begins next month. 

The three-year, £1.6 million Materials for Life (M4L) research project being carried out jointly by Cardiff, Cambridge and Bath Universities aims to develop concrete that can repair itself. Costain is one of the principal stakeholders in the project and is providing £600,000 of in kind funding. Other stakeholders include BRE, Highways Agency, The Welsh Government and Atkins. Costain is also sharing the financial support of research student Oliver Teall, Costain graduate civil engineer, who will carry out research leading to a PhD at Cardiff University.

The products developed will be trialled at a number of Costain sites. The location of the trials is yet to be decided but it is expected that they will begin in Spring 2015 and last approximately 18 months. 

“This is cutting edge technology and Costain’s involvement once again underlines our commitment to innovation,” said Andrea Green, Project Manager. “Self-healing concrete could be a game changer for the industry, with the potential to enhance durability, improve safety and dramatically reduce maintenance costs.

“Costain is bringing funding to the project and also our expertise in managing projects, commercial management, product development and access to key national clients for site trials.”

Oliver will be looking at how shape memory polymers can be used to help heal cracks in concrete.  He explained: “Polymer tendons are incorporated into the concrete. If a crack occurs, these tendons can currently be activated by either heat or an electrical supply. They then spring back to their original shape, compressing the concrete and closing the crack.

He added: “Researchers at Bath and Cambridge will be looking at calcite producing bacteria and microcapsules that contain healing agents respectively.  The aim is to combine all three areas of research to create multi-scale damage immunity and pave the way for a new generation of construction materials.”

Oliver will divide his time between Cardiff University and Costain’s Cardiff offices.  He said he jumped at the chance to be involved in the project.  “It’s not only an opportunity to develop something new; it’s a chance to develop products that can be used on a global scale and provide exciting new solutions for our customers.”

Added Andrea: “In Oliver we will have someone who has carried out cutting edge research and then brought that knowledge back into the business, further enhancing our leading innovation credentials.”