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£1.3m drive to harness high-performance materials for buildings
Civil and structural engineers will explore the durability of high-tech composite materials of the type used in aerospace and automotive industries in a bid to unlock their full potential for infrastructure and civil engineering works.
The University of Warwick is leading a consortium including five other UK universities which has been awarded a £1.3 million grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Composite materials have been used in the mechanical engineering sectors for many years as they are strong, stiff and light-weight. For these reasons, they also offer exciting possibilities for new national infrastructure, especially in bridges and low-rise buildings.
But before they can be become a common feature of the built environment, engineers need to be able to predict exactly how long into the future their structures will be fit for purpose.
The DURACOMP project will address this challenge by carrying out physical testing of composite materials, and structural connections and joints, as well as developing computer modelling of their behaviour for lifetimes in tens of years.
“High-performance, light-weight composites have transformed sectors like automotive and aerospace and there is real potential that they could do the same for the UK’s national infrastructure.
“But as buildings and bridges have to be designed to last longer into the future than cars or aeroplanes, we need to understand exactly how their structural performance will change with age and to possible climate changes.
“The deliverables from this grant will help us to establish the durability of these materials and their structures, through a combination of collecting experimental data and advancing computer modelling.”
The University of Warwick is collaborating with the University of Bath, the University of Bristol, the University of Glasgow, the University of Leeds and Newcastle University on the project.
The grant is part of a total of £4.7 million awarded by EPSRC for ground and structural engineering projects.
The path to these projects started in 2009 when EPSRC commissioned a review of academic research into the area of ground and structural engineering.
This was published in 2010 and among its recommendations was for more adventurous research with a community driven agenda.
EPSRC then funded two one-year networks FIF and LimesNet to formulate ideas. Last year, out of these networks, emerged a call for proposals based on the networks’ aims.
Welcoming the funding, Professor Barry Clarke, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers and Professor of Civil Engineering Geotechnics at the University of Leeds, and a member of the team that reviewed the state of research in the field said:
“I am very pleased to welcome this funding. These projects will look at issues which are both current and emerging and can improve the sustainability of our infrastructure and buildings. This is a positive example of the community and research councils working closely together.”
EPSRC’s Chief Executive, Professor David Delpy said:
“These grants will support vital underpinning research that will help the UK deliver major infrastructure projects and help us plan maintenance in the context of climate change.
“Likewise, developing new composites and self-healing materials will help us prolong the life and integrity of new buildings as well as enabling the retrofitting of older ones.”