Dolomite Microfluidics’ micro-encapsulation technologies are used by researchers at the University of Cambridge to develop self-healing construction materials.
The University’s Department of Engineering’s Geotechnical and Environmental Research Group is developing microcapsules containing ‘healing’ agents – such as minerals, epoxy or polyurethane – which can be added to building materials to allow self-repair of small cracks which develop over time.
“Many composite building materials used in the construction industry – such as concrete – suffer fatigue over time, developing small cracks. We are hoping to overcome this problem by adding microcapsules filled with ‘healing’ agents to the concrete before it is used. The idea is that, as cracks begin to form, they rupture the microcapsules, releasing their payload and stabilising the material,” said Dr Livia Ribeiro de Souza, a postdoctoral researcher in the group.
The Dolomite system has enabled the researchers to create functionalised microcapsules that bind more strongly to the cement matrix, while also having thinner shell walls and higher core retention, improving their self-healing properties.
“This approach requires the formation and functionalisation of double emulsion microcapsules, which we have been producing with the help of microfluidics. We have been using a Dolomite Microfluidics system since 2014, and find that microfluidics offers much better control of particle size and composition than traditional emulsification polymerisation techniques, simplifying the investigation and optimisation of particle properties,” she said.
“It is good to be able to discuss any issues we’re having with the experts at Dolomite Microfluidics, helping to accelerate our research and move us a step closer to real world applications,” Livia added.
The research was recently highlighted in BBC News broadcasts.