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Smart biomimetic construction materials for next generation infrastructure

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Al-Tabbaa, A 
Lark, R 
Paine, K 
Jefferson, A 
Embley, T 


The resilience of building and civil engineering structures is typically associated with the design of individual elements such that they have sufficient capacity or potential to react in an appropriate manner to adverse events. Traditionally this has been achieved by using ‘robust’ design procedures that focus on defining safety factors for individual adverse events and providing redundancy. As such, construction materials are designed to meet a prescribed specification; material degradation is viewed as inevitable and mitigation necessitates expensive maintenance regimes; ~£40 billion/year is spent in the UK on repair and maintenance of existing, mainly concrete, structures. More recently, based on a better understanding and knowledge of microbiological systems, materials that have the ability to adapt and respond to their environment have been developed. This fundamental change has the potential to facilitate the creation of a wide range of ‘smart’ materials and intelligent structures, including both autogenous and autonomic self‐healing materials and adaptable, self‐sensing and self‐repairing structures, which can transform our infrastructure by embedding resilience in the materials and components of these structures so that rather than being defined by individual events, they can evolve over their lifespan. We therefore advocate that next generation infrastructure will include next generation infrastructure materials based on smart biomimetic construction materials. This paper presents details of the national consortium that is leading international efforts in the development of those next generation infrastructure materials. It presents details of the work done to date, over the past three years, as part of the EPSRC funded project Materials for Life and the plans for work to be done over the next five years as part of a follow-on Programme grant: Resilient Materials for Life.



Journal Title

International Symposium on Next Generation Infrastructure

Conference Name

International Symposium on Next Generation Infrastructure

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Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/K026631/1)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/P02081X/1)