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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Doctoral students helping National Highways innovate for the future



From data science to self-sensing smart roads… National Highways is celebrating the exciting research work of some of its doctoral students and research fellows to mark World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development (March 4).


There are more than two dozen people studying for PhDs and higher qualifications with universities in partnership with National Highways, and their research spans a range of engineering topics.


This is the first year of World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development designed to celebrate the important contributions of engineers and engineering to modern life and sustainable development.


The doctoral students and research fellows at National Highways are contributing to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals with their work.

  • Long Term Performance of Concretes Exposed to Severe Environments - Moro Sabtiw, PhD student

  • Data science and advanced technologies for sustainability-orientated decision-making – Jinying Xu, post-doc

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities - Make cities and human settlement inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable

  • Self-sensing smart roads – Xueying Wang, PhD student

Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

  • Relating to decarbonisation of current and future road and related systems: Building-information-modelling enabled life cycle assessment - Shaoleo Bai, PhD student

  • Current and future material flows and stocks in roads – Daniel Grossegger, post-doc

  • Maximizing Recycled Materials for Sustainable Pavement Construction – Anand Sreeram, post-doc

  • Eco-design Fellowship – Dr Evangelia Manola, post-doc

Goal 13: Climate action - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

  • Modelling of Interactions between Engineering and Natural Infrastructures in flood Risk Management - Wuyi (Zoe) Zhuang, PhD student

Moro Sabtiw, who is studying Long Term Performance of Concretes Exposed to Severe Environments for a PhD, estimates a significant amount of the UK infrastructure budget is allocated to the maintenance, repair, or replacement of aging infrastructure. This is mainly associated with damage of the concrete and/or its steel reinforcement typically induced by the CO2 present in the air (a reaction known as carbonation) and/or chlorides present in sea water or de-icing salts.

Moro said: “There is an imminent need to elucidate the degradation mechanism of concrete infrastructure, to identify intervention strategies for minimising its maintenance and increasing service life and assess the suitability of novel low carbon concretes for their application in critical infrastructural projects.

“Specifically, my project interrogates the performance of composite concretes when exposed to accelerated carbonation and/or chlorides and in a combined exposure condition. The results from this study will enable us to identify the overall performance of alternative slag-based composite concretes as a function of age and mix design, which is of great industrial interest, as these concretes are now being added to existing British Standards.”

As part of Moro’s doctorate, he says the unplanned repair of infrastructure within the transport network can cause major disruptions to customers, at a great financial cost, particularly if the integrity of the concrete structures is compromised.

He said: “As we transition towards more sustainable practices which include the use of low carbon concretes, it is important to ensure that these materials can withstand the conditions they will be used for, to minimise potential disruptions in the transport infrastructure network in the longer term, and reduce maintenance requirements by extending the service life of high value transport infrastructure assets.”

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