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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K026631/1
Title: Materials for Life (M4L): Biomimetic multi-scale damage immunity for construction materials
Principal Investigator: Lark, Emeritus Professor R
Other Investigators:
Harbottle, Dr MJ Cooper, Dr R Lees, Professor J
Paine, Professor KA Gardner, Dr D R Oyen, Dr ML
Abell, Professor C Al-Tabbaa, Professor A Heath, Professor A
Jefferson, Professor T
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Limited Arup Group Ltd Atkins
BRE Trust (Building Res Excellence) Costain Laing O'Rourke Ltd
Mott Macdonald National Grid Parsons Brinckerhoff
Schlumberger Shell TRL Ltd (Transport Research Laboratory)
URS Infrastructure & Environment UK Ltd
Department: Sch of Engineering
Organisation: Cardiff University
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 July 2013 Ends: 30 September 2016 Value (£): 1,672,025
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Civil Engineering Materials Structural Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Oct 2012 GSE Full Proposal Sift Announced
29 Nov 2012 GSE Interview Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The resilience of building and civil engineering structures is typically associated with the design of individual elements such that they have sufficient capacity or potential to react in an appropriate manner to adverse events. Traditionally this has been achieved by using 'robust' design procedures that focus on defining safety factors for individual adverse events and providing redundancy. As such, construction materials are designed to meet a prescribed specification; material degradation is viewed as inevitable and mitigation necessitates expensive maintenance regimes; ~£40 billion/year is spent in the UK on repair and maintenance of existing, mainly concrete, structures and ~$2.2 trillion/year is needed in the US to restore its infrastructure to good condition (grade B). More recently, based on a better understanding and knowledge of microbiological systems, 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. This will include both autogenous and autonomic self-healing materials and adaptable, self-sensing and self-repairing structures. These materials can transform our infrastructure by embedding resilience in the components of these structures so that rather than being defined by individual events, they can evolve over their lifespan. To be truly self-healing, the material components will need to act synergistically over the range of time and length scales at which different forms of damage occur.

Conglomerate materials, which comprise the majority of our infrastructure and built environment, form the focus of the proposed project. While current isolated international pockets of research activities on self-healing materials are on-going, most advances have been in other material fields and many have focussed on individual techniques and hence have only provided a partial solution to the inherent multi-dimensional nature of damage specific to construction materials with limited flexibility and multi-functionality. This proposal seeks to develop a multi-faceted self-healing approach that will be applicable to a wide range of conglomerates and their respective damage mechanisms. This proposal brings together a consortium of 11 academics from the Universities of Cardiff, Bath and Cambridge with the relevant skills and experience in structural and geotechnical engineering, materials chemistry, biology and materials science to develop and test the envisioned class of materials. The proposed work leverages on ground-breaking developments in these sciences in other sectors such as the pharmaceutical, medical and polymer composite industries. The technologies that are proposed are microbioloical and chemical healing at the micro- and meso-scale and crack control and prevention at the macro scale. This will be achieved through 4 work packages, three of which target the healing at the individual scales (micro/meso/macro) and the fourth which addresses the integration of the individual systems, their compatibility and methods of achieving healing of recurrent damage. This will then culminate in a number of field-trials in partnership with the project industrial collaborators to take this innovation closer to commercialisation.

An integral part of this project will be the knowledge transfer activities and collaboration with other research centres throughout the world. This will ensure that the research is at the forefront of the global pursuit for intelligent infrastructure and will ensure that maximum impact is achieved. One of the primary outputs of the project will be the formation and establishment of a UK Virtual Centre of Excellence in Intelligent Construction Materials that will provide a national and international platform for facilitating dialogue and collaboration to enhance the global knowledge economy.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.cf.ac.uk