The Construction Engineering (EC) Research Group of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) is participating in the NEUROCRETE project. The aim of this project is to explore the possibilities of introducing the principles of neuromorphic design to develop a new paradigm of smart cementitious materials for civil engineering applications.
In the civil infrastructure field, there is a long way to go before we can say that infrastructure is truly smart. One of the most commonly accepted ways of developing smart cementitious materials is the incorporation of conductive phases. Although tests that have been carried out in this area have had very satisfactory results, these materials still have to be incorporated in real structures, that is, at real scale. The concept of designing smart structures has evolved very little in the past 20 years. This is due partly to the high costs and the problems of durability that may arise in sensors installed in the exterior.
NEUROCRETE is designed to advance further in the implementation of intelligence in infrastructure and to introduce a paradigm shift in the design of materials and smart structures to overcome these limitations. The aim is to develop materials and structures that reproduce the functioning of biological systems: networks of materials and structures that imitate neurons and the brain.
First, the project explores the use of cementitious materials that incorporate carbon (for example, carbon fibre) as memristors (an electrical component that combines memory and resistance) to imitate the behaviour of neural systems. This study will help to ensure that the properties of these materials are similar to those of individual components of the human brain.
Second, additive manufacturing (3D printing) will be used to obtain multilayer materials with differentiated properties. This will enable new composites to be created to achieve properties that are not possible with current manufacturing systems.
Finally, the use of new machine learning algorithms will be explored in relation to smart cementitious materials to obtain nociceptive systems that act as a central translation system.
The project started in 2020, lasts 4 years and has funding from the State Research Agency for a value of 157,300 euros.