Materials for Sustainable Infrastructure

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Materials for sustainable infrastructure encompass a range of innovative materials and technologies designed to minimize the environmental impact of infrastructure projects while enhancing their durability, resilience, and performance. These materials address the growing need for sustainable solutions in construction, transportation, and other infrastructure sectors.

Impact on climate action

Materials for Sustainable Infrastructure within Advanced Materials advance climate action by promoting durable, low-carbon construction materials. By reducing embodied carbon in infrastructure projects, these innovations mitigate emissions, enhance resilience to climate change, and contribute to the development of sustainable and climate-resilient cities and infrastructure systems.

Underlying
Technology

  • Recycled and Upcycled Materials: Utilizing recycled materials, such as recycled concrete, asphalt, and steel, reduces reliance on virgin resources and minimizes waste disposal. Upcycling involves transforming waste materials into higher-value products, further enhancing sustainability.
  • Bio-Based Materials: Bio-based materials, such as timber, bamboo, and bio-based polymers, offer renewable alternatives to traditional construction materials with lower embodied carbon footprints.
  • Low-Carbon Cement and Concrete: Innovations in cement and concrete production aim to reduce the carbon footprint of these materials, which are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • High-Performance Materials: Advanced materials with enhanced properties, such as self-healing materials, corrosion-resistant materials, and high-strength composites, can improve the durability and lifespan of infrastructure, reducing maintenance costs and resource consumption.
  • Smart Materials and Sensors: Smart materials and sensors can be embedded in infrastructure to monitor its condition, detect damage, and enable proactive maintenance, improving safety and extending lifespan.

TRL : 5-8 (depending on the specific material and application)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Recycled Concrete and Asphalt: Technologies are being developed to improve the quality and performance of recycled concrete and asphalt, making them more suitable for use in infrastructure projects.
  • Engineered Timber and Bamboo: Engineered timber and bamboo products offer high strength and durability, making them viable alternatives to steel and concrete in some construction applications.
  • Low-Carbon Cement and Concrete Technologies: Innovations such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) in cement production and the use of alternative cementitious materials are reducing the carbon footprint of concrete.
  • Self-Healing Concrete: Self-healing concrete incorporates materials that can automatically repair cracks, improving durability and extending the lifespan of concrete structures.
  • Smart Infrastructure Sensors: Sensors embedded in infrastructure can monitor its condition, detect damage, and provide real-time data for predictive maintenance.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Recycled and Upcycled Materials
  • Bio-Based Solutions
  • Low-Carbon Cement and Concrete
  • High-Performance Composites
  • Smart Infrastructure Integration
  • Engineered Timber and Bamboo
  • Sensor-Embedded Materials
  • Carbon Capture Innovations
  • Sustainable Construction Practices
  • Resilient Infrastructure Solutions
  • Advanced Concrete Technologies
  • Green Building Materials
  • Sustainable Transportation Materials
  • Next-Generation Construction Materials
  • Eco-Friendly Infrastructure Solutions

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • CarbonCure Technologies:
    • Technology Enhancement: CarbonCure develops carbon capture and utilization (CCU) technology for the concrete industry, which involves injecting recycled CO2 into concrete during production to improve strength and reduce carbon emissions.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: CarbonCure’s technology enables concrete producers to reduce their carbon footprint while enhancing the performance and durability of concrete structures, offering a sustainable solution for the construction industry.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: CarbonCure serves the construction industry, including ready-mix concrete producers, precast concrete manufacturers, and infrastructure developers, providing eco-friendly concrete solutions for a wide range of projects, from buildings to roads and bridges.
  • Biomason:
    • Technology Enhancement: Biomason specializes in biofabrication technology for sustainable masonry products, using bacteria to grow bio-based materials that mimic the properties of traditional concrete and brick.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Biomason’s biofabricated materials are made from renewable resources and have a lower carbon footprint compared to conventional building materials, offering an environmentally friendly alternative for sustainable construction.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Biomason targets the construction and building materials industry, providing sustainable alternatives to traditional masonry products for applications such as bricks, tiles, and pavers in residential, commercial, and infrastructure projects.
  • Fortera:
    • Technology Enhancement: Fortera develops advanced cement and concrete formulations that incorporate industrial byproducts and alternative materials to improve sustainability and reduce environmental impact.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Fortera’s sustainable concrete solutions offer comparable or superior performance to traditional concrete while reducing carbon emissions and resource consumption, providing a more eco-friendly option for infrastructure construction.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Fortera serves the construction industry, including infrastructure developers, transportation agencies, and government organizations, offering sustainable concrete solutions for roads, bridges, dams, and other civil engineering projects.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT is a leader in research on materials for sustainable infrastructure, focusing on developing advanced materials and construction techniques to enhance the resilience, durability, and environmental sustainability of infrastructure systems.
    • Uniqueness: Their research often involves the development of innovative materials, such as self-healing concrete, smart coatings, and sustainable composites, to address challenges like degradation, corrosion, and environmental impact in infrastructure.
    • End-use Applications: MIT’s work has applications in transportation infrastructure, buildings, and coastal protection. For example, they’re developing self-healing materials for concrete pavements and bridges, as well as smart sensors and coatings for monitoring and maintaining infrastructure health.
  • Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford’s research on materials for sustainable infrastructure emphasizes interdisciplinary approaches, integrating materials science, civil engineering, and environmental sustainability to develop resilient and eco-friendly infrastructure solutions.
    • Uniqueness: They are known for their work on bio-based materials, recycled materials, and nanotechnology-enabled materials for sustainable construction and infrastructure rehabilitation.
    • End-use Applications: Stanford’s research finds applications in sustainable building materials, water infrastructure, and urban resilience. For instance, they’re investigating bio-inspired materials for flood protection and green infrastructure solutions for stormwater management and urban heat island mitigation.
  • Delft University of Technology (TU Delft):
    • Research Focus: TU Delft’s research on materials for sustainable infrastructure encompasses a wide range of topics, including circular economy principles, life cycle analysis, and innovative construction materials and techniques.
    • Uniqueness: Their research often involves collaboration with industry partners and policymakers to develop practical solutions for sustainable infrastructure development and management.
    • End-use Applications: TU Delft’s work has applications in sustainable transportation, water management, and urban planning. For example, they’re researching recycled materials for road construction, bio-based materials for coastal protection, and modular construction techniques for affordable and resilient housing.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Materials for sustainable infrastructure are being increasingly adopted in various infrastructure projects around the world. For example, recycled concrete and asphalt are being used in road construction and building projects, while engineered timber is being used in bridges and buildings.