Case Study: Cardiff University

Cardiff University chooses Lychgate to help steer their research into self-healing concrete

The Challenge

Cardiff University, along with colleagues at the Universities of Bath and Cambridge have been working on a project called Materials 4 Life (M4L).  This is a long-term research project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, to deliver self-immunity systems for cementitious materials, capable of healing themselves based on the principles of bio-mimetic immunity.  

The potential for savings in maintenance costs is huge.  Structures could last longer, whole-life costs would be reduced.  Concrete exposed to challenging environments or with difficult access for maintenance could be protected.

There are several different technologies being developed by the M4L, including bacterial healing.  This involves introducing dormant bacteria into the concrete mix.  When activated by water or chemical change, the bacteria produce a silicate material to seal the crack through which the water has entered the concrete, healing and preventing further water ingress.

Constructionline

M4L is an EPSRC funded project

The project needs to ensure that the technologies and techniques developed address the real-world problems.  To date, the technologies are being tested in laboratory and field trials. To help shape the direction of future research and development, the M4L team needed insight into the problems encountered with concrete structures which could threaten structural integrity and longevity, and how these are currently addressed.   This is where Lychgate came in.

 

The Approach 

Stage 1: Depth interviews with industry specialists in the field of concrete, including a major Concrete Structures Contractor, a senior Consulting Engineer, a national Civil Engineering Contractor, a Concrete Repairs Contractor and a national cement manufacturer.  This gave us a good understanding of issues and enabled us to develop questioning for the subsequent stages of research.

Stage 2: Lychgate ran a series of interactive workshops at an event organised by CIRIA looking at use of innovative products in the construction industry.  This gave further insight into the subject from a larger number of industry specialists.

Stage 3: Telephone interviews with 40 industry specialists – key Clients in infrastructure, utilities and transport, major Civil Engineering Contractors and Design Team members from large Consulting Engineering practices and multi-disciplinary organisations.

The Outcome

The results highlighted to the Cardiff University research team the main types of problems experienced with structural concrete, the extent of these problems and where use of the innovative new technologies would be of most benefit.  This has allowed Cardiff University to steer the next phase of their research and development to target accurately the right technologies to the appropriate applications, structures and project types.

“From the very first meeting Lychgate impressed us with their knowledge and industry insight and their work has proved fundamental in driving our research forward. Their enthusiasm for the project and their active engagement with academic and industry representatives were key to delivering a successful outcome.”

Dr Diane Gardner

Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering, Cardiff University School of Engineering