Research activity within the Civil Engineering Materials field embraces the generic theme of porous construction materials with specific interest in cementitious systems. Within this remit, research includes material response to environmental processes; the interaction between environment, material properties and degradation processes; in-service performance of materials; low-embodied-energy construction materials, and the development of novel micro- and macro- characterisation techniques to study porous building materials such as timber, stone, brick, heritage materials and saturated/unsaturated soils. The research comprises both numerical and experimental studies, the latter including micro-scale examination, full-scale testing and field studies.
In the area of cementitious materials, academics are working on a number of ongoing research programmes which includes the development of characterisation techniques (broadband dielectric relaxation spectroscopy) and sensor technology to study material properties and performance.
Current research projects include:
- hydration processes in cementitious systems
- chemical and mineral admixtures
- alkali-activated (OPC-free) binders
- fly-ash systems
- backfill grouts
- carbonation of lime mortars
- quality control of fresh concrete
- moisture movement within cover-zone concrete
- surface treatments for concrete
- durability of reinforced concrete
Researchers are addressing a number of these areas through monitoring the performance of concrete in its service environments through the development of durability indicators for concrete and instrumentation at full-scale.
The researchers use a marine exposure site on the Dornoch Firth in NE Scotland which was set up under the auspices of Transport Scotland and provides a unique database on the performance of concrete in a marine environment. Field studies are also aimed at developing remote interrogation of embedded sensors utilising mobile technology.
Other areas include the development of cementitious systems with multifunctional capabilities (smart materials) to allow the material to simultaneously provide both structural and non-structural applications and current research focuses on electrically-conductive, fibre reinforced cement composites.