First UK field application and performance of microcapsule-based self-healing concrete
Maintaining the health and reliability of our infrastructure is of strategic importance. The current state of the UK infrastructure, and the associated huge costs of inspection, maintenance, repair and eventual replacement, is not sustainable and is no longer environmentally viable. The design of infrastructure, mainly concrete, remains traditional and poor material performance continues to be the main cause of deterioration and failure in our infrastructure systems. Biomimetic materials, that emulate natural biological systems in their ability to self-healing, provide an exciting and plausible solution. Embedding cementitious materials with in-built capabilities to sense and respond to their environmental triggers could potentially eliminate all external interventions and deliver a resilience infrastructure. The work presented in this paper forms part of a national initiative that has been developing biomimetic cementitious infrastructure materials which culminated in the first large-scale field trials of self-healing concrete in the UK testing four different but complementary technologies that were developed. This paper focuses on one self-healing technology, namely microcapsules, which contain a healing agent that is released on their rupture as a result of crack propagation. The paper will present details of the microcapsules used, their implementation in concrete and in the field trials and time-related, field and laboratory, assessment of the self-healing process. It also highlights challenges faced and improvements that are now on-going to produce the next generation of the microcapsule self-healing cementitious system.