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Materials for Life (M4L)

Developing a new generation of unique, versatile and robust self-healing construction materials.

Materials4Life (M4L) research aims to improve the sustainability and resilience of the built environment.

A particular focus of our work is the development and testing of biomimetic materials and intelligent structures. An increasingly important part of this research is life-cycle assessment and the development of methods for evaluating the in-service and long-term performance of these materials and structures.

A notable feature of our approach to solving problems is the close integration of experimental and numerical research.

Numerical research involves the development and validation of computational models for new and existing cementitious materials, and their application to real structures. M4L’s experimental research encompasses proving of efficacy of new materials, the characterisation of materials and testing structural elements at small and large scales.

Learn more about our current research project RM4L

Expertise

  • Materials science
  • cement and concrete science
  • water transport in cementitious systems
  • numerical modelling
  • smart engineering
  • self-healing materials
  • sustainable materials
  • structural resilience engineering
  • conservation engineering
  • retrofitting of cultural heritage
  • preservation of existing structures and infrastructure to natural hazards
  • life cycle assessment
  • carbon footprint

What we do

  • Laboratory-based investigation
  • numerical modelling and simulations
  • structural design
  • pilot-scale and large-scale experiments
  • life cycle analysis (LCA)
  • performance-based seismic design and assessment
  • strengthening of cultural heritages
  • disaster risk reductions
  • resilience enhancement against natural hazards.

Facilities

The M4L group users have access to dedicated experimental facilities to design, prepare, characterise and test building materials, as well as a growing suite of equipment to simulate ageing and deterioration.

  • Concrete Laboratory
  • Durability and Characterisation Lab (DURALAB)

Resilient Materials 4 Life (RM4L) 2017 – 2022 £4.8M (EPSRC Reference: EP/P02081X/1)

Resilient Materials 4 Life (RM4L) is an EPSRC funded project being undertaken by researchers at Cardiff, Bath, Bradford and Cambridge Universities.

The project comprises four research themes which address: self-healing of cracks at multiple scales; self-healing of time-dependent and cyclic loading damage; self-diagnosis and immunisation against physical damage; and self-diagnosis and healing of chemical damage.

These themes bring together complementary technologies using laboratory experiments, numerical modelling and site trials which, under the guidance of the project’s industrial partners (Costain, Jacobs, HS2, Highways England, Micropore, Environment Agency, Cemex, etc), addressing a diverse range of applications such as cast in-situ and precast concrete, repair systems, overlays and geotechnical systems. The nature of the research is both varied and exciting, encompassing the fundamental physico-chemical actions of innovative healing systems.
Read more about RM4L

Watch the RM4L video

List of relevant publications

Engineering Microbial-Induced Carbonate Precipitation via Meso-Scale Simulations, £1M 2019-2022

Engineers have proposed a revolutionary solution, which was inspired by nature: self-healing materials able to self-repair as a result of the metabolic activity of bacteria. The main mechanism of concrete healing is the microbial-induced precipitation of calcium carbonate (MICP), which fills the cracks of the damaged material. In this project we aim to provide a new theoretical basis to predict the most promising combinations of bacteria and concrete, once the application-specific chemical compositions of the concrete of the surrounding environment are identified. This will establish a new paradigm for the digital design of concrete-bacteria systems and will enable technology transfer across the constructions sector.  Read more about the project.

Self-healing Multifunctional Advanced Repair Technologies in Cementitious Systems (SMARTINCS), €4M, 2019 – 2023 (EU agreement 860006)

The EU-funded SMARTINCS project will train a new generation of creative and entrepreneurial early-stage researchers (ESRs) in the prevention of deterioration of new concrete infrastructure via innovative self-healing strategies. It will also train them in advanced repair technologies for maintaining existing concrete infrastructure. The project brings together the complementary expertise of research institutes pioneering in smart cementitious materials, strengthened by leading companies along the SMARTINCS value chain, as well as certification and pre-standardisation agencies.

Read more about SMARTINCS

Past projects

Self-healing geological construction materials and structures (GEOHEAL), 2018 – 2020, €183k (EU agreement 745891)

During the GEOHEAL project, our objectives focused on the development, application and assessment of biological healing and self-healing mechanisms for repairing and preventing damage in cementless construction materials, such as natural stone. The direct compatibility of the biological healing products, such as calcite, with stone materials, enables their application in heritage conservation, and significant reduction of maintenance costs in both existing and new structures. Read more about self-healing masonry

Read more about GEOHEAL

Materials 4 Life (M4L), 2013 – 2016, £1.7M (EPSRC Reference: EP/K026631/1)

This project involved the development of a new generation of unique, versatile and robust self-healing construction materials, which are self-healing over multiple spatial and temporal scales.

The project was conducted by a consortium from the Universities of Cardiff, Bath and Cambridge, three of the top UK academic institutions, which have the required interdisciplinary mix of civil engineering and science skills and expertise and are uniquely placed to lead this novel and challenging research endeavour both nationally and internationally. The project led to the first UK site trail of self-healing concrete. Learn more about the M4L project.

List of relevant publications

  1. Davies et al. Large Scale Application of Self-Healing Concrete: Design, Construction, and Testing. Frontiers in Materials, 2018.
  2. A shape memory polymer concrete crack closure system activated by electrical current. Smart Materials and Structures, 2018.
  3. Botusharova et al. Augmenting Microbially Induced Carbonate Precipitation of Soil with the Capability to Self-Heal. Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, 2020.

Lead researcher

Professor Tony Jefferson

Professor Tony Jefferson

Professor and Group Leader for Materials for Life

Email
jeffersonad@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 5697

Academic staff

Dr Diane Gardner

Dr Diane Gardner

Reader - Teaching and Research

Email
gardnerdr@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 0776
Professor R. (Bob) Lark

Professor R. (Bob) Lark

Emeritus Professor

Email
lark@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 6176
Dr Iulia Mihai

Dr Iulia Mihai

Lecturer - Teaching and Research

Email
mihaiic1@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 0368
Dr Robert Davies

Dr Robert Davies

Lecturer - Teaching and Research

Welsh speaking
Email
daviesre11@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 0043
Dr Michael Harbottle

Dr Michael Harbottle

Director of Recruitment and Admissions

Email
harbottlem@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 5759
Dr Brunella Balzano

Dr Brunella Balzano

Lecturer in Smart Civil Engineering

Email
balzanob@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 4597
Dr Riccardo Maddalena

Dr Riccardo Maddalena

Lecturer

Email
maddalenar@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 208 76 150

Postgraduate students

No profile image

Amrit Bains

Research student

Email
bainsa1@cardiff.ac.uk
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Gwilym Evans

Research student

Email
evansgi@cardiff.ac.uk

Associated staff

Brubeck Freeman

Brubeck Freeman

Research Associate

Email
freemanbl@cardiff.ac.uk
Dr Cristina De Nardi

Dr Cristina De Nardi

Research Associate

Email
denardic@cardiff.ac.uk

Self-healing as prevention repair of concrete structures (SARCOS), 2016 – 2021

SARCOS is a EU COST Action (CA15202) aimed at providing a framework to advance the implementation of innovative and sustainable solutions for extending the service life of concrete structures.

Under SARCOS, international meetings, training schools for researchers, conferences and short-term scientific missions have been organised, leading to fruitful collaborations between the M4L group and other European Universities and organisations.

Read more about SARCOS.

Other network and contacts

The M4L team is actively collaborating with the Cardiff Materials Research Network, and other University groups, and it is actively engaged with external organisations such as RILEM, the ICE, COSTAIN, Highways England.