Research and development in higher learning institutions around the globe is critical. It leads to breakthroughs that benefit industry and humanity. Composites Manufacturing did some research of its own to present a sampling of noteworthy achievements from various universities. This story, about fiber-reinforced cement, is the fifth in a series of stories this month.

Project: Fiber-reinforced cementitious systems
School: The University of Edinburgh
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Director: Luke Bisby

Traveling by train between Rome and Naples, Italy, provides breathtaking views of the Mediterranean coast. Halfway between the two cities is the ancient city Formia, and the Rome-Formia-Naples Railway stops in all three cities. Built in the 1920s, the railway requires maintenance and renovations to ensure it’s safe.

Ruredil, an Italian construction chemical and building materials company, recently worked on a project to upgrade a concrete railway bridge in Formia. The original arch was not reinforced with steel, so the bridge underwent seismic retrofitting to strengthen and protect it against damage from earthquakes, which are prevalent in central Italy. The repairs utilized a fiber-reinforced cementitious system developed by Ruredil’s research partner, the University of Edinburgh.

The university’s Building Research Establishment Centre for Fire Safety Engineering researches structural strengthening systems to improve traditional and new building materials and methods of building repair, particularly at elevated temperatures and in fire. “We are studying the mechanical and bond performance of various proprietary systems consisting of either carbon or PBO fiber open-weave textiles, which are adhered to the exterior of structural elements using modified cementitious mortars,” says Luke Bisby, a senior research fellow in structures and fire at the Centre for Fire Safety Engineering.

The systems are installed using traditional plastering techniques and can be as little as four to six millimeters thick, says Bisby. The external surface looks like concrete. First, a thin layer of cement mortar is applied to the structure’s surface, then the fiber-reinforced textile is laid into the mortar. Afterward, a top coat of mortar is applied. Bisby says the process is similar to the wet layup application of CFRP and GFRP fiber wraps used around the world.