Ioanna Papanikolaou, a RM4L PhD student at the University of Cambridge, won two awards at the 12th fib International PhD Symposium in Civil Engineering in Prague, after presenting her research progress in graphene materials for concrete infrastructure. Ioanna won the Best Paper Award, against a competition of 150 other submissions, and the BASF Award.
“I began my research after questioning how, despite advances in concrete research, little has changed over the last years around the way we design and build our infrastructure”, Ioanna said. “Developments in nanomaterials and nanotechnology create many opportunities for developing truly biomimetic infrastructure with self-diagnosing and healing capabilities.”
Ioanna’s long term aim is to lead in the creation of smart structures that can sense their condition and automatically repair damage and decay. “Inspecting our structures is a great expense in European engineering. We spend approximately half of our regional infrastructure budget on just making sure what we have is stable”, Ioanna explained.
“However, if your concrete mix includes graphene, which is highly conductive, you could have a structure that on its own can act as a sensor and diagnose its condition, creating datasets which let operators like highway and railway companies know their network is keeping their customers safe.”
Ioanna’s research is conducted at the University of Cambridge and is aided by the Costain technical community. “My research has progressed so much faster because of the support networks I’ve established in Costain and the supply chain”, Ioanna said. “I’ll be using my professional network throughout the rest of my PhD programme. Anyone who wants to contact me about my research can use firstname.lastname@example.org.”