SmartCrete CRC makes significant progress with several important projects in motion

At SmartCrete CRC, we are all about delivering project value to our stakeholders by simply improving the ways we make and use concrete. SmartCrete and partners have invested $6.2m in a new round of innovative projects which will enhance the contribution of long-term industry led research to areas of need in Australia’s concrete sector.

Encouraging the collaboration between industry, academia and government will produce effective and sustainable outcomes with environmental, financial and social benefit to the community. We are delighted to provide more detail on these exciting projects and are looking forward to outcomes that will ensure the long-term viability of concrete infrastructure in Australia.

Development of digital twin model based on physico-chemical and biosensors to estimate end-of-service life of sewers 

There is currently no reliable methodology for estimating the end-of-service life (EOSL) for concrete sewers in water utilities. This project will develop a fully integrated digital twin model that informs asset owners of EOSL by combining machine learning with real-time corrosion rate sensing data delivered via purpose designed physio-chemical and biosensors installed in a wastewater network.

The improved EOSL evaluation will enable the asset owners to make better informed decisions on timely asset rehabilitation and reduce maintenance costs. SmartCrete CRC is proud to work with our partners Sydney Water and Melbourne Water on this project as well as our academic partners UTS, Macquarie University and La Trobe University.  

Decision Support Tools for Life Cycle Management of Water Infrastructure Assets 

The water sector is confronted by significant technical, social and economic pressures, mostly the rising effects and cost of corrosion of the concrete used in sewer and water networks. The aging infrastructure requires replacement and/or maintenance of sewer and water pipes and related infrastructure to mitigate the corrosion which is a costly exercise and continues to increase.

This project will deliver a new integrated and holistic approach in managing and monitoring concrete sewer and water infrastructure assets by developing decision tools and sensing technologies based on an integrated understanding of the interaction between the asset, the corrosion system, operational conditions and asset design. Sydney University, WSAA and key water utilities, Hunter Water, Melbourne Water, Water Corporation, SA Water and South East Water and supply industries will work together to ensure improved performance, management of risk, and reduction in cost will translate to greater customer satisfaction in terms of reduced disruption to businesses and households, reliable management of health and environmental impacts.   

Protocol development for intelligent monitoring of concrete corrosion in marine environments 

Marine exposure conditions are challenging for reinforced concrete (RC) structures. RC deterioration can lead to the loss of functionality, high maintenance costs, and in rare extreme situations, catastrophic failures. In this regard, the annual cost of corrosion-related infrastructure maintenance in Australia is estimated to be AU$8 billion. 

This project will develop a new artificial intelligence (AI) supported corrosion monitoring tool applicable for existing and new marine RC structures. Our industry partners Fremantle Ports and Southern Ports authorities, Fosroc Parchem and Vinsi partners, along with the research partners Curtin University (leading research institution), Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, and Macquarie University, will work together to reduce the impact of corrosion on infrastructure, develop proactive maintenance strategies and improve safety. 

Using drinking water treatment alum sludge to make greener and durable concrete 

Concrete sewer pipelines are susceptible to sulfuric acid attack and fails quite often far before reaching their asset design life. This is due to microbially-induced acid reinforcement corrosion that occurs when exposed to these aggressive environments. This project proposes to develop a new and innovative type of mortar lining material incorporating alum sludge to mitigate the corrosion of concrete sewer pipes. 

The pozzolanic reaction from alum sludge is expected to enhance the structural performance of concrete sewer pipes. In addition, diverting alum sludge from landfills not only solves environmental concerns associated with sludge disposal but will also be cost effective for the water utilities. University of SA will partner with SA Water to investigate the new lining material and to establish its cost effectiveness and environmental credentials through life cycle costing and life cycle assessment.  

Selecting Low Carbon Concrete for transport infrastructures – Now and future 

Recently Australia’s cement and concrete industry declared its ambition to deliver net zero carbon cement and concrete to Australian society by 2050. As such, SmartCrete CRC is committed to working towards decarbonising cement and concrete in the construction supply chain. 

There is a strong need for a framework for the universal use of Low Carbon Concrete (LCC) in the Australian construction industry. This project meets 2 pathways identified in the recently released “Decarbonisation Pathways for the Australian Cement and Concrete Sector”. They are (1) Use of supplementary cementitious materials in concrete, and (2) New CO2-efficient cements.  

The project aims to advance sustainable concrete construction in two ways by establishing a framework for the use of optimum low carbon concrete based on existing Transport for NSW (TfNSW) specifications and evaluate the viability of new and innovative low carbon concrete systems into the framework. This project brings together the cement and concrete industry, as members of CCAA and TfNSW will work with UTS to deliver solutions, through collaboration and research. 

Digital Twin of reinforced concrete bridges for intelligent asset management

Road Bridges are life-line infrastructure providing service to the community. Current bridge asset management at network level utilise data-driven models derived from visual inspections for bridge deterioration prediction, while load rating assessment is conducted on specific bridges using as-built drawings or limited monitoring when required. In this project, we will create a proof of concept for a digital twin of concrete girder bridges which form 60% of the network in Australia through integration of 3D visualisation, IoT, sensor/NDT technologies, deep learning and advanced numerical modelling.

The result will be delivery of a digital solution for optimised bridge asset management enhancing safety and sustainability at a reduced cost. The project fits within SmartCrete CRC’s goals to guarantee long-term viability of vital concrete infrastructure in Australia in partnership with Ezgi Engineering, Qingdao, TfNSW, DoT Victoria, Melbourne Water, McDonald Lucas, Beta international, Lastek and Bentley systems along with our academic partners RMIT, UTS, UWS and Curtin University.  

Development of a concrete sewer maintenance hole inspection system

Water authorities in Australia each have thousands of concrete sewer maintenance holes (man-holes) which are scattered across roads, footpaths, nature strips and private property. These holes can be adversely affected by concrete corrosion and require constant assessment. Unfortunately, visual inspection is not sufficient to detect corrosion, and the structural integrity needs to be examined as the concrete may crumbled when touched.

This presents a potential safety hazard to the public. This project aims to design and develop a multi-modal robotic assessment system which can be operated safely from the surface to inspect sewer maintenance holes. The system will perform condition assessments with a range of sensors to determine the optimum condition assessment sensor platform.  A multidisciplinary group of researchers from La Trobe University along with the Intelligent Water Network will develop a proof-of-concept prototype under controlled laboratory settings as well as field trials.  

Use of Construction and Demolition Waste and Recycled Glass Materials in Sealed and Unsealed Roads 

The purpose of the project is to seek for better, cost-effective methods to design, build and maintain flexible pavements in order to produce sustainable road transportation infrastructure. The proposal calls for an integrated laboratory-field-numerical approach to investigate the performance of flexible pavements using waste materials reclaimed from construction and demolition, such as concrete, bricks with gravel, as well as recycled glass.

As part of the laboratory testing, gravel materials mixed with recycled waste shall be tested, according to the relevant Australasian industry standards. The proposed research will make it possible to use road surface records, geotechnical datasets, geospatial database, and machine learning algorithms to monitor roads for defects that pose a safety risk, and to offer maintenance data to relevant authorities. The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in collaboration with the Scenic Rim Regional Council (SRRC) Qld and the Department of Environment and Science (DES) Qld will be engaging in this vital research to find out how well recycled materials, like concrete, bricks and glass, work across both sealed and unsealed roads, thus promoting circular economy. 

Check out some of our other projects