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Self-healing, Multifunctional, Advanced Repair Technologies IN Cementitious Systems

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SMARTINCS (Self-healing, Multifunctional, Advanced Repair Technologies IN Cementitious Systems)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-11-30

The appearance of small cracks in concrete is almost unavoidable, impairing its functionality, accelerating its degradation, and diminishing its service life and sustainability. The loss of performance highlights the need for increased investments in maintenance and/or intensive repair/strengthening works.
The consortium consists of 11 beneficiaries: 8 research institutes with a varying background in R&D of smart cementitious materials and 3 companies. The companies each have a specific area of expertise: Micropore is an expert in microencapsulation techniques, such as membrane emulsification, Avecom is specialized in steering and optimizing microbial processes, and RDC has extensive knowledge in the design of structures with special concrete types. The beneficiaries are supported by Partner Organisations; research institutes and leading companies along the SMARTINCS value chain, as well as certification and pre-standardization agencies. Every six months the consortium has formally come together to stimulate collaboration and to track the progress.
SMARTINCS trains a new generation of entrepreneurial early-stage researchers (ESRs) in prevention of deterioration of (1) new concrete infrastructure by innovative, multifunctional self-healing strategies; and (2) existing concrete infrastructure by advanced repair technologies. 15 ESRs are being trained by the consortium to implement new life-cycle thinking and durability-based approaches to the design of concrete structures, minimizing the use of resources and production of waste, in line with Europe’s Circular Economy strategy. The training of each ESR is supervised by a Doctoral Guidance Committee consisting of members from the different partners. ESRs also go on several secondments to broaden their background and stimulate collaboration. Several of these secondments have already taken place, but the majority had to be shifted to the second part of the project, as a result of COVID-19. Furthermore, two training schools have already been organized, each lasting a week with a nice balance of trainers from different partners. These schools were open for interested researchers and the lectures are now available on our YouTube channel.
The scientific work is clustered in three Work Packages (WP): (1) Improved self-healing concrete, (2) Advanced local (self-) repair, and (3) Durability, service life and sustainability. These are supported by a fourth Work Package (4) Technology transfer and Entrepreneurship, which has as a main goal to ensure market oriented research. To this end, Laís Bandeira Barros (ESR15) is identifying commercialization routes and the key success factors to meet exploitation for which numerous interviews with stakeholders have already taken place.
In WP1, Yasmina Shields (ESR1) is optimizing vascular networks to be embedded in concrete to allow transport of healing agents to damaged sections. Different healing agents for vascular networks have been trialled culminating in a decision matrix for healing agent selection. Claire Riordan (ESR2) works on microcapsules. These tiny spherical capsules have a shell structure which protects the liquid healing agent in the core until it ruptures when the concrete cracks. So far, three microcapsule formulations have been developed using membrane emulsification. Mustafa Mert Tezer (ESR3) is developing a bio-additive which can supply a concrete matrix with cyclic self-healing ability and corrosion inhibition. An initial testing period identified the promising bio-additives for future development. Harry Hermawan (ESR4) develops a methodology for the design of optimized self-healing concrete mixes to be used in ready-mixed and prefab concrete applications, improving the current practice where self-healing agents are added just ‘on top’. Sina Sayadi Moghadam (ESR5, also part of WP2), uses the experimental results of the others to simulate the different self-healing processes in cementitious materials. A 3D time-dependent micromechanical model is currently up and running, providing information on the dependency of healing efficiency and healing agent’s properties.
In WP2, Suelen da Rocha Gomes (ESR6) has already developed two grouts. Grouts are e.g. used to fill the ducts in post-tensioned systems. Due to the addition of crystalline admixtures in the grout, bleeding and shrinkage could be reduced. Priya Arul Kumar (ESR7) develops multi-functional tailored repair mortars that enable healing efficiency. To this end, microcapsules have already been successfully added to traditional repair mortars. In order to prevent the use of excessive amounts of healing agents, Shan He (ESR8) focuses on the development of a method to apply self-healing technologies only in the concrete cover zone, where they are needed. A strain-hardening cementitious composite with bacteria to induce self-healing has already been developed. Recognizing that inspections of structures can be difficult to carry out, Gabriele Milone (ESR9) works on the development of sensing coatings. Initial results have already shown a good response of the cementitious coatings with graphene-related materials to the application of an external load.
In WP3, Niranjan Prabhu (ESR10) aims to develop test methodologies to characterize healing performance in concrete structural elements under repeated cracking and healing cycles and impact. Initial results have shown that specimens' stiffness increases after healing, which might increase the fatigue life. Vanessa Giaretton Cappellesso (ESR11) develops a selection matrix for self-healing methodologies that can be tailored to specific realistic (extreme) environments, e.g. a study of different self-healing concretes in harsh freeze-thaw conditions has been running. Pardis Pourhaji (ESR12) works on mitigating chloride and carbonation induced corrosion. It has for example already been shown that polyurethane and water repellent agent provide a promising delay of the corrosion onset. Kiran Dabral (ESR13) tackles how self-healing can be incorporated in structural design for serviceability. To have a sound experimental basis, a large set of industrial-scale beams is prepared which will be exposed to a seawater environment. Finally, to clearly substantiate the benefit of self-healing solutions, Davide di Summa (ESR14) develops Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Life Cycle Cost (LCC) analyses. These map the advantages with respect to environmental parameters and cost, facilitating technology transfer.
By combined experimental research and coupled multiscale models, SMARTINCS moves beyond the state-of-the-art with respect to (1) the efficiency of self-healing concrete, at acceptable cost for real-scale applications; (2) the multi-functionality (corrosion inhibition, self-sensing) of the self-healing solutions; (3) the technologies for local application of healing agents in high risk zones or in high value grouts and repair products. The developments of SMARTINCS will help society to build and renovate in a resource efficient way and will accelerate the shift to sustainable and smart mobility, thereby contributing to the European Green Deal.
In the first 24 months the progress has been disseminated by the ESRs by ways of 3 journal articles and 6 conference participations. In addition, 4 newsletters and weekly posts on Social Media have communicated the latest achievements. Several ESRs have also participated in the European Researchers’ Night in 2021.
SMARTINCS logo.
SMARTINCS research program and the 15 ESR projects (SH: self-healing).
Overview of the SMARTINCS consortium partners.
Participation in the European Researchers’ Night 2021 (organisation BeWise and Fundación Descubre).