A self-healing future

Nick Myall
Tuesday 22 Mar 2016

A trio of UK universities are currently testing technologies that will be used to develop self-healing concrete

Imagine a structure that could repair itself without human intervention, well that goal has become closer to reality thanks to research being carried out in Cardiff in the UK.

Self-healing concrete technologies are currently being developed by a team of researchers from the School of Engineering at the University of Cardiff, in Wales. Through a project called Materials for Life (M4L), the researchers are conducting the first major trial of these materials in the UK.

The team, which also includes scientists from the University of Bath and the University of Cambridge, in the UK, will evaluate the viability of three types of self-healing concrete: one with shape-memory polymers activated by electrical current, one with healing agents made from organic and inorganic compounds, and one with capsules containing bacteria and healing agents. M4L’s goal is autonomous infrastructure—roads, tunnels, bridges, and buildings—that can repair themselves.

The team’s goal is to “create sustainable and resilient systems that continually monitor, regulate, adapt, and repair themselves without the need for human intervention," said Cardiff professor and M4L principal investigator Bob Lark in a press release. This is especially important given the estimated £40bn ($57.8bn) spent annually on the concrete-intensive maintenance and repair of these structures in the U.K., the team says. The M4L trial is underway at a road-construction site near the A465 highway in South Wales, where the researchers can view the performance under real-world conditions.

The WAN Concrete in Architecture Award 2016 is now open - entry deadline 30 April.


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