After the successful development of the formula for self-healing concrete, its creators are about to put it to its first test.
Researchers from Cardiff University are conducting a major trial for a self-healing concrete system by testing three concrete healing technologies in a site at South Wales Valleys.
To test the effectiveness of the system, researchers used six concrete walls, each containing a different form of self-repairing technology. This is to determine how effective each concrete healing technique is.
"These self-healing materials and intelligent structures will significantly enhance durability, improve safety and reduce the extremely high maintenance costs that are spent each year," said Professor Bob Lark, one of the lead scientists in the project.
Concrete is one of the most in demand construction materials in the world for its durability, thermal resistance and easy availability of raw material resources. By 2030, it is predicted that large countries like India and China will be producing 5 billion metric tons of global cement output a year to meet urban development demands.
It is therefore no surprise that millions of dollars are involved in repairing structures that use concrete. In the UK, for example, an estimated $18.3 billion was spent on road repairs last 2014 alone.
To reduce these annual costs, the research team aimed to perfect the single system that can be embedded into concrete structures that can facilitate repairs once it sense damage.
The project, Materials for Life (M4L), is planning to attain this single system by combining three separate self-healing concrete technologies.
The first uses shape-memory polymers, which are shape-shifting materials, that can repair large cracks in the concrete. The second technique involves pumping organic and inorganic "healing" materials in the thin tunnels network on the concrete to facilitate repairs. The last technique involves the use of tiny capsules with healing agents and bacteria that will react with the materials in a cracked concrete to produce calcium carbonate and heal the cracks.
"Our vision is to create sustainable and resilient systems that continually monitor, regulate, adapt and repair themselves without the need for human intervention," Lark said, adding that this major trial will provide useful information that can help them know how to apply these technologies in a real life setting.