Self-healing concrete put to the test on Welsh highways project

Innovative self-healing concrete is being put to the test on site in South Wales. The material is being used in the construction of a trial structure on Costain’s Heads of the Valleys highways improvement project.

Self-healing concrete uses a combination of shape memory polymers, microcapsules and microbial healing to reduce or slow down the effects of deterioration due to ageing or damage.

Costain is one of the main industrial partners of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)-funded Materials 4 Life research project, and has been sponsoring research by Cardiff, Cambridge and Bath Universities into such materials. The aim of the research is to improve the durability of concrete structures.

Costain civil engineer Oliver Teall told the audience at the 5th International Conference on Self-Healing Materials at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, USA: “This will give the research team an opportunity to monitor the performance of the material in a real site-based environment and is a key element of the research.

Teall continued: “We’ll be building a full-scale wall structure with a number of concrete panels. Into each panel we will incorporate different combinations of self-healing techniques. These will be loaded to artificially damage them, and then monitored to see how they react and recover over time.”

Testing is due to begin at the end of September and run for a minimum of six months. Teall added: “From this trial we should gain an insight into the feasibility of constructing a full-scale structure with these techniques and their early-stage effects on structural properties.

“We’ll be looking at the effect of the healing techniques on areas such as stiffness, permeability and the mechanical damage recovery of the trial panels.”

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