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Collaborative Research: Sensor Sensibility

The corrosion of steel in reinforced concrete is a massive problem. £550 million is spent on the maintenance and repair of concrete structures each year in the UK alone, while the cost of concrete corrosion in India is equivalent to 3 to 4 per cent of its gross domestic product annually. Although maintenance may be costly, failing to preserve structures is far worse - five people were killed in Canada in 2006 when a concrete bridge collapsed due to corrosion induced by road de-icing salt.

The Challenge

To develop a sensor for monitoring corrosion in concrete structures that can work in hostile environments in which traditional electrical or physical sensors would fail.

The Solution

Professor Tong Sun from the School of Mathematics, Computing Science and Engineering has developed an optical pH sensor that is more compact, has a wider operating range and a longer operating life than other devices on the market.

A follow-on grant from the EPSRC enabling City to work with QUB, Network Rail, Road Services in Northern Ireland, Sengenia Ltd. and Amey Consulting to develop a viable commercial product.

Professor Sun comments:

 This work promises to provide industry with access to improved data on concrete corrosion, enabling timelier and more cost-effective maintenance of buildings in harsh environments, such as marine structures and railway bridges.