Civil & Environmental Engineering

Advanced Materials Science & Applications

Materials science is broadly defined is the science and understanding of both man made and naturally occurring materials. These can range from spiders web silk, to printed circuit boards and from polymers to minerals formed under high pressure in oil wells.

The subject is vast and uses techniques and methods from every branch of science to understand, create and control substances and materials in our everyday lives.

Chemomechanics – deterioration & alteration of geomaterials

Our work on geomaterials seeks to understand and control fracture and propagation in geological faults, nuclear waste depositories and building materials. The maintenance and replacement of buildings and roads alone is a trillion dollar industry with far reaching societal and cultural impact. Building materials are chemically active. Cracking, particularly in cement and concrete, is often driven by a chemical reaction or event having a mechanical effect on the material.

Our work focuses on combining chemical and mechanical analysis using a broad range of laboratory and simulation techniques covering length scales from the atomic level to the bulk.

Deterioration of cement & concrete structures in central Hong Kong – some of the most expensive real estate in the world

Scanning electron micrograph of ettringite crystals, which form in concrete and cause cracking (Courtesy of Dr C. Vladu)

Laboratory experiment to measure crystal growth rate (sodium sulphate) through limestone and strain (damage) caused by crystallisation in pores. Sodium sulphate is one of the most damaging salts to crystallise in geomaterials

Deterioration of a building foundation in Adelaide from salt crystallisation (‘salt damp’). Photo courtesy of Dr E. Doehne

Current projects