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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Concrete development tackled by PhD student

Research being carried out into use of lightweight materials to make concrete more environmentally friendly

GROUNDBREAKING research into the structure of concrete is being conducted by an 82-year-old PhD student from the University of Wolverhampton.

Philip Owens, who also makes up one third of the industrial consultancy firm ‘Nustone Ltd’, is currently investigating a way to vary concrete density using combinations of normal coarse aggregate and lightweight aggregate materials, such as clay.

If successful, his research will allow the creation of a lightweight concrete structure which could benefit the country both economically and environmentally.

His quest was given a boost when he, along with other post-graduate students from the university’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, was invited to meet David Gauke MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, in the House of Commons.

There Mr Owens, alongside his university supervisor, Prof. Jamal Khatib, explained how detritus clay removed from tunnels by the Crossrail project in London would be the ideal raw material for the manufacture of lightweight aggregates that would make structural concrete 25% lighter and buildings less expensive to construct.

Commenting on his research, Mr Owens said that because concrete is not very friendly to the environment, any initiative to conserve resources or to reduce its impact is ideal for research.

‘More efficient structural concrete has used lightweight aggregates (LWA) for at least 100 years, but suitable supplies of LWA have been intermittent. Currently in London, tunnels are being driven through clay, which makes a very good LWA.

‘The benefit of Nustone’s LWA proposal is that every tonne of London clay used to manufacture LWA is equivalent to three tonnes of normal coarse aggregate. This contributes significantly to the conservation of normal aggregate reserves, without reducing the overall effectiveness of concrete,’ said Mr Owens.

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