A new generation of self-healing concretes

Title of the research project

Development and characterization of advanced cementitious materials with improved reliability and durability

Scientific area  

Mechanics of solids and structures; Material science and technology

Project coordinator

Paola Antonaci

Abstract 

The SHEcrete project was inspired by Nature and was meant to develop, characterize, model and prototype novel cement-based materials able to show the same ability of living beings to spontaneously recover from possible degradation processes.  

Description of the research project

The SHEcrete project came out as an attempt to find a cost-effective and technically feasible solution to overcome a problem: the susceptibility to cracking of all cementitious materials. Indeed, the drawback that counterbalances the positive features of inexpensiveness and flexibility in use of these materials (that are by far the most widely used construction materials on earth) is their low tensile strength and consequent vulnerability to cracking, that may hamper their structural integrity and bring about relevant costs for repair and maintenance. The SHEcrete project drew inspiration from the observation of nature to reproduce in such materials the same ability to spontaneously recover from cracking (i.e. the “self-healing” effect) that is displayed in living organisms and tissues. The research proposed was based on a multidisciplinary approach, that took its starting point from the study and selection of the optimal healing agents, alongside with the development of a production technology for capsules suitable to store such healing agents and release them at damage occurrence, in order to finally get to the production and physical-mechanical characterization of some prototypes of self-healing cementitious systems, with different performance levels.

Impact on society

Several social and economic outcomes are expected from the research on self-healing cementitious systems. Indeed, the potential applications of an advanced self-healing technology involve a massive variety of civil structures and infrastructures, thus generating, in principle, enormous savings on the repair and maintenance costs suffered by public administrations and private companies. Further indirect advantages can be found in the reduction of serviceability, prolongation of lifecycle and increase of safety level with respect to ordinary concrete structures. Finally, the research on self-healing concrete opens new business opportunities for the cement and construction industries, with potential positive outcomes on the global economy.    

Research results

The project allowed the definition of innovative encapsulation systems, the selection of efficient healing agents, the production of prototypes of self-healing concretes and the characterization of mechanical and physico-chemical performance through specific procedures.

The results obtained allowed the research group to publish scientific works on important magazines, receive invitations to participate to conferences and training events and create new collaborations, globally enhancing the group impact at the international level. Existing collaborations with companies were strengthened and new ones were built. Moreover, the group was involved in an international research project and acquired a new Ph.D. position.

In particular, some of the research results are:

  • 2 new review articles
  • New collaborations with internationally renown universities, such as Ghent University, Cambridge University, Tohoku University, Politecnico di Milano
  • Collaborations with Buzzi Unicem and ENI
  • 1 COST action supported by Horizon2020
  • 1 Ph.D. contract based on the project topics

Working group 

At Politecnico di Torino:

Jean-Marc Tulliani, Marco Scalerandi, Antonio Gliozzi, Cecilia Surace,  Giovanni Anglani, Vincenzo Di Vasto, 

External collaborators:

Nele De Belie e Kim Van Tittelboom, Ghent University, Belgium

Abir Al-Tabbaa, Cambridge University, UK

Liberato Ferrara, Politecnico di Milano, Italia

Tomoya Nishiwaki, Tohoku University, Japan

  • Budget: 150.000
  • Start date: 15/12/2015
  • End date: 17/12/2017