First major UK trial of self-healing concrete is underway in Wales

A team of researchers from Cardiff University is leading the first ever major British trial of self-healing concrete in Wales.

The project, called Materials For Life, is currently being undertaken in the South Wales Valleys and is testing ways of repairing concrete without any intervention from humans.

It’s piloting three individual concrete-healing technologies in real-world settings. The university is aiming to incorporate them in one system capable of automatically repairing concrete in built environments.

By being embedded into concrete when first set, it’d be able to sense when damage occurs. Once an issue is detected, it’d be able to self-repair without any help from a human.

Construction company Costain is one of the project’s main industrial partners, and testing is being undertaken on one of its construction sites the Heads of the Valleys road improvement scheme in South Wales – the A465. The research team also includes academics from the University of Bath and the University of Cambridge.

Professor Bob Lark, the principal investigator on the project from Cardiff University’s School of Engineering, said: “Our vision is to create sustainable and resilient systems that continually monitor, regulate, adapt and repair themselves without the need for human intervention.

“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. This major trial, the first of its kind in the UK, will provide us with important insights to help transfer the technologies from the lab into real-world settings.”

Oliver Teall, a civil engineer at Costain, said: “We are supporting this innovative research to unlock the many potential benefits of self-healing concrete for use within infrastructure.

“From this trial we should gain an insight into the feasibility of constructing a full-scale structure using these techniques and their early-stage effects on structural properties.

“We will be monitoring properties such as stiffness, permeability and the mechanical damage recovery of the trial walls in comparison with conventional reinforced concrete walls.”