The vision of RM4L is that, by 2022 we will have achieved a transformation in construction materials, using the biomimetic approach first adopted in M4L, to create materials that will adapt to their environment, develop immunity to harmful actions, self-diagnose the on-set of deterioration and self-heal when damaged. This innovative research into smart materials will engender a step-change in the value placed on infrastructure materials and provide a much higher level of confidence and reliability in the performance of our infrastructure systems.
The ambitious programme of inter-related work is divided into four Research Themes (RTs); RT1: Self-healing of cracks at multiple scales, RT2: Self-healing of time-dependent and cyclic loading damage, RT3: Self-diagnosis and immunisation against physical damage, and RT4: Self-diagnosis and healing of chemical damage. These bring together the four complementary technology areas of self-diagnosis (SD); self-immunisation and self-healing (SH); modelling and tailoring; and scaling up to address a diverse range of applications such as cast in-situ, precast, repair systems, overlays and geotechnical systems. Each application will have a nominated 'champion' to ensure viable solutions are developed. There are multiple inter-relationships between the Themes. The nature of the proposed research will be highly varied and encompass, amongst other things, fundamental physico-chemical actions of healing systems, flaws in potentially viable SH systems; embryonic and high-risk ideas for SH and SD; and underpinning mathematical models and optimisation studies for combined self-diagnosing/self-healing/self-immunisation systems.
Industry, including our industrial partners throughout the construction supply chain and those responsible for the provision, management and maintenance of the world's built environment infrastructure will be the main beneficiaries of this project. We will realise our vision by addressing applications that are directly informed by these industrial partners. By working with them across the supply chain and engaging with complementary initiatives such as UKCRIC, we will develop a suite of real life demonstration projects. We will create a network for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) in this field which will further enhance the diversity and reach of our existing UK Virtual Centre of Excellence for intelligent, self-healing construction materials. We will further exploit established relationships with the international community to maximise impact and thereby generate new initiatives in a wide range of related research areas, e.g. bioscience (bacteria); chemistry (SH agents); electrochemical science (prophylactics); computational mechanics (tailoring and modelling); material science and engineering (nano-structures, polymer composites); sensors and instrumentation and advanced manufacturing. Our intention is to exploit the momentum in outreach achieved during the M4L project and advocate our work and the wider benefits of EPRSC-funded research through events targeted at the general public and private industry. The academic impact of this research will be facilitated through open-access publications in high-impact journals and by engagement with the wider research community through interdisciplinary networks, conferences, seminars and workshops.