The lab of materials and environment is a world leader in concrete technology. Researchers in the lab study the healing, aging and sustainability of construction materials and they are changing the norms in the world of concrete.
Housed in the Civil Engineering and Geosciences faculty, the lab is located on the top floor. With several separate rooms within the lab, the students have access to different high tech machines including a nanoindenter used to gain information on the micro-mechanical properties of materials and another to conduct compression testing.
The lab is known as the microlab because of its focus on the micro-mechanical properties of construction materials. The students are looking into the micro-characteristics of the materials they are working with. “All the students have very different educational backgrounds. We need diversity because of the array of materials we are working with,” explains American Ph.D. candidate Natalie Carr who is developing carbon dioxide neutral binders to replace traditional cement. “8% of all carbon emissions are from cement production,” says Carr. She is working to find a way to neutralize the emissions entirely. It is a first look at making cement production environmentally friendly.
In the same lab, Ph.D. candidate Damian Palin of Ireland is developing bacteria based self-healing concrete for application in marine areas. If a crack forms in the concrete and is hit by water, encapsulated bacteria with a food source can cause a reaction to fill the crack with limestone. “I believe in it and I'm interested in it. Nature is able to heal itself and that is our inspiration,” says Palin. They are looking to have a first generation product in the next few years.
The lab is taking regular construction materials and elevating them to the next level. Making inanimate objects fit in a more organic way within our natural world.