Self-monitoring concrete inventor wins UKRI award

A woman smiling
Zijing Li developed self-monitoring concrete technology during her PhD at the University of Cambridge (Image: UKRI/Zijing Li)

UK Research and Innovation has named Zijing Li, the co-founder of a company implementing biomimetic self-healing concrete technologies, as one of the UK’s leading women entrepreneurs.

Li is one of the 50 winners of the UK’s Women in Innovation Awards that reward women entrepreneurs with “exciting, innovative ideas and ambitious plans that will inspire others”.

Her advanced materials science startup, Mimicrete, is behind a novel self-healing technology that could put an end to potholes.

Li developed the technology during her doctorate at the Geotechnical and Environmental Research Group in the Department of Engineering of the University of Cambridge.

Li’s research in biomimetic materials and vascular self-healing concrete forms the core technology of Mimicrete, which she founded in 2021 with the aim of developing sustainable and resilient construction materials.

Each of the UK’s Women in Innovation Awards winners receive a £50,000 grant and a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and business support to develop their projects.

Smart concrete

Self-healing concrete technology can heal concrete cracks as soon as they appear. This can prevent further cracking and structural issues, lengthening the lifespan of concrete and reducing the need for overengineering, repair or replacement. This has a positive impact on the environment as it reduces the amount of carbon emissions linked to concrete production and use.

Other advantages of a self-monitoring system for concrete include the ability to diagnose degradation and inform engineers about the need for remote operations and long-term maintenance.

“Our technology requires no manual intervention post-installation,” claims Mimicrete’s website. “It increases the strength of the concrete on day one and more than doubles its lifespan. The need to monitor and maintain infrastructure is reduced.

“Mimicrete helps the ‘world’s most destructive material’ to become significantly more sustainable, without total reinvention of the product or supply chain.”

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