New labs to focus on next-generation infrastructure materials

Imperial College London

Imperial College London has announced the creation of a new materials research laboratory focused on making infrastructure more sustainable and more durable. According to ICL, work at the new lab will include exploration of new ways to make materials more sustainable by looking at how they can be manufactured with smaller carbon footprints. Concrete, for instance, is one of the most harmful of construction materials in terms of its carbon impact due to carbon emissions associated with cement production.

The new £5.4m Advanced Infrastructure Materials (AIM) laboratory will be the centrepiece of a new Imperial Centre for Infrastructure materials based at Imperial's department for civil and environmental engineering. The Centre will also launch a new MSc in infrastructure materials to train the next generation of specialists from 2019.

Imperial's head of civil and environmental engineering, Professor Nick Buenfeld, said: “Construction materials underpin our whole society, but we are lagging behind in terms of developing them to meet the complex needs of our modern world. These days materials need to last, be cost effective to make, but also need to be environmentally friendly and enable us to conjure up ever more effective and aesthetically pleasing structures. That is why our new Centre is so important, because it will help to fill the research gap and enable us to develop materials that meet our complex construction needs.”

The AIM lab is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and will form part of a new National Centre for Infrastructure Materials, including Leeds and Manchester Universities. The combined national centre has received a total of £16.6m of funding from EPSRC for developing new research facilities. Leeds will set up a new centre dedicated to researching how materials can be made more robust to resist the affects of weather ageing. Manchester will develop similar for furthering materials' resistance to extremes of fire and impact forces.

The National Centre for Infrastructure Materials also forms part of UKCRIC – the wider UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure & Cities, which is providing leadership and support for developing a UK-wide network of infrastructure research across 14 different universities. Also listed among UKCRIC's aims, the organisation wants to develop and exploit the export potential of the UK's infrastructure expertise, for an international market reckoned to be worth $57 trillion up to 2030.