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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W028867/1
Title: Regenerative 3D printed cementitious skins for building components (Re3DSkin)
Principal Investigator: Blanco Alvarez, Dr A
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Concrenetics BVBA Thorp Precast Ltd
Department: Architecture, Building and Civil Eng
Organisation: Loughborough University
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 September 2022 Ends: 31 August 2024 Value (£): 246,905
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Civil Engineering Materials Structural Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Apr 2022 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 6 and 7 April 2022 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Recent studies have reported that 50% of repaired concrete fails again after a few years (25% within 5 years of repair, 75% within 10 and 95% within 15), resulting in recurring and costly interventions, material consumption and operational carbon footprint. New strategies, emphasizing zero- or minimum-maintenance, are vital to reduce the sector's operational carbon footprint and meet the UK net-zero target.

Self-healing cementitious composites (SHCC) are an interesting alternative to conventional concrete. They contain mineral or biologic agents that react with water percolating through cracks to produce compounds that seal openings and heal the material before significant damage occurs. The dominant approach in the literature uses a uniform deployment of self-healing agents in a significant volume of the components due to uncertainties associated with the production process and crack positions. Nevertheless, research has pinpointed several issues associated with the implementation of self-healing materials in the construction sector and, among them, the initial investment in material cost.

Re3DSkin proposes a shift in the deployment strategy and functionalisation of components - using modern methods of construction - to enable selective deposition of self-healing agents in a superficial layer with a variable concentration tailored to the likelihood and degree of cracking in each portion of the component's surface. This surface layer acts as an optimised regenerative skin to enhance the asset's performance. 3DP technology can offer the required deposition control and accuracy to optimise the layer's mesostructure and thickness, facilitating variable placement via in-line admixture addition.

Re3DSkin's broad scientific objectives are to: (1) adapt the 3DP process for deposition of surface layers with variable self-healing agent concentration, and with enhanced distribution precision and accuracy; (2) understand the influence of 3DP layer thickness and variable deposition on the self-healing mechanism and efficiency; (3) compare the self-healing mechanism and material efficiency of components with a layer of variable agent concentration to equivalent components with uniform self-healing agents across the entire volume and (4) evaluate and demonstrate - in the lab and industry - the feasibility of the novel strategy via production of the world's first full-scale building component with this solution.

Re3DSkin will enhance the resilience of newly built and existing assets by extending service life and address the UK's critical vulnerability of ageing assets. Developed solutions could reduce labour-intensive repair, maintenance and dependence on increasingly scarce skilled labour. Re3DSkin's findings can also reduce the use of carbon-intensive materials in SHCC and overall demand for repair materials during the whole-life of assets. Re3DSkin outcomes will contribute to a more productive, more sustainable and more internationally competitive construction sector.

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