Research team

Energy and Materials in Infrastructure and Buildings (EMIB)

Expertise

Since 2015 Bart Craeye is active as professor (BAP) at University of Antwerp – Faculty of Applied Engineering, and since 2017 as assistant professor (ZAP) with a research task of 10% at EMIB Research Group (Energy & Materials in Infrastructure & Buildings). His research is implemented and integrated in the BiRD (Buildings and Installations – Retrofit & Design) and RERS (Road Engineering) research sections. The research group and sections focus on research in the field of infrastructure and buildings with focus on quality and design, sustainable assessment methodologies of buildings, and recycling-innovation-sustainable design of pavement and infrastructure respectively, related to a reduced environmental impact. Bridging the gap between fundamental research, academic insights, practical implementation and expertise for the industry is the main goal of his research. Close cooperation with the industry is of high importance. The focus of the research of Bart Craeye is on concrete as a durable building material for concrete structures, and is incorporated into two research domains of the mission of research of University of Antwerp, i.e. Ecology&Sustainable Development and Materials Characterization. Within EMIB the mission of his research is (i) durable design of new and sustainable concrete and cementitious materials for infrastructure (pavements, bridges, etc.) and the built environment (residential buildings, etc.), and (ii) condition assessment of existing concrete structures with focus on remaining service life and bearing capacity determination. Regarding concrete technology and concrete structures we are facing challenges on the short and the long term. For the development of new structures the current design codes (EN260, EN1992) are based on a deemed-to-satisfy approach that lacks (semi-)probabilistic calculations. Furthermore, the cement and concrete industry is responsible for approximately 5% of the CO2 emission. By replacing cement by supplementary binders (fly ashes, blast furnace slags, geo-polymers, etc.), characterizing its mechanical and durability-related properties and implementing the obtained experimental data into probabilistic models, the aim is to create durable/sustainable concrete structures with extended service life that can withstand the expected exposure, but with reduced environmental impact that can withstand the expected exposure. Regarding existing concrete structures other research opportunities are identified. Half of the existing concrete structures originate from the 70’s. As the mean life expectation of a concrete structure is 50 years, an almost inimitable demand of concrete repair project can be expected. Therefore, we have to be armed with a validated protocol to come to a substantiated solution for durable repair and service life extension. Current inspection regulations (e.g. EN1504) lack of clear guidelines regarding methodology, experimental/technical in-situ and lab program, rating strategy during diagnosis, etc.

Sustainable foundations through in situ recycling with foamed bitumen technology (FOAM) 01/11/2020 - 30/10/2022

Abstract

In Flanders, more and more attention is being paid to sustainable road structures. For the time being, attention is often focused on the pavements. However, over the next few decades, foundations and sub-foundations of existing roads will also have to be renewed. Only this will enable us to maintain our road infrastructure, which is of primary economic and social importance, for future generations. Abroad, we are seeing more and more innovative use of materials for foundations: new material forms (e.g. geopolymers) and production technologies (e.g. emulsions, foamed bitumen). This project uses one of the most promising innovative technologies: in situ recycling of asphalt pavements into bonded foundations. With this technology, the existing asphalt will be milled either completely or partly, possibly with part of the foundation, and mixed on site with foamed bitumen and a hydraulic binder. This mixture is then compacted into a new foundation layer. In addition, two alternative binding agents are included in a comparative laboratory study: geopolymer to replace cement and emulsions to replace the foamed bitumen. Both materials are currently being researched by UAntwerpen for their applicability in foundations, in collaboration with Odisee University College. Foam technology has existed abroad for more than twenty years, but is not gaining a firm foothold on Flemish soil because of the high investment, numerous unknown factors for material selection and profitability, limited know-how and lack of real product descriptions. As a result, the potential of in situ recycling of existing foundations is severely underused. Furthermore, about 40% of the released asphalt granulate (600.000 tons) is currently used as unbound granulaes as embankment, or in bonded state with cement, while in combination with the foamed bitumen the precious bitumen of the asphalt granulate is still used, which would probably be preferable for an LCA and LCC. In view of the fact that foundations are often laid for public works, the sector considers it necessary to test this innovative step for Flemish road construction via a Tetra project.

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Project website

Assessing technologies when it matters the most: A methodological framework to perform ex-ante LCA on innovative concrete technologies. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2021

Abstract

Due to the large environmental impact of concrete, a high demand exists for innovative concrete technologies. In order to evaluate and improve the environmental performance of these innovative technologies, a quantitative environmental assessment method such as a life cycle assessment (LCA) needs to be performed. The majority of LCA studies are applied after the technology has been fully developed. At this stage any change made to the technology will cost a substantial amount of money and effort. Its more beneficial to perform an LCA on the technology during the development stage instead. Here the goal is to predict what the environmental impact of the technology will be when it reaches an industrial scale. Performing such a future orientated LCA, also called ex-ante LCA, can greatly help with improving the technology throughout the development process. This grants the developers insight on how each design choice will impact the environmental performance of the technology. The big challenge of performing an ex-ante LCA is making a valuable assessment on the expected environmental impact of the fully developed technology at a time where little data is available. This project will focus on creating a methodology to perform ex-ante LCA on emerging concrete technologies by theoretically upscaling the emerging technology to an industrial scale and taking into account changes to the incumbent technology and background system.

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Condition assessment of reinforced concrete slab: air permeability testing 23/05/2019 - 30/08/2019

Abstract

Condition assessment of reinforced concrete slab by means of air permeability testing. Non-destructive evaluation of the condition of an existing concete slab by means of PermeaTorr air permeability testing, visual inspection of deterioration mechanisms and rebar detection.

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Condition assessment - air permeability testing 17/04/2019 - 05/07/2019

Abstract

Condition assessment of reinforced concrete slab by means of air permeability testing. Non-destructive evaluation of the condition of an existing concete slab by means of PermeaTorr air permeability testing, visual inspection of deterioration mechanisms and rebar detection.

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KMO Reno. 01/12/2016 - 30/11/2018

Abstract

This research focuses on qualitative renovation of KMO buildings. The primary bearing structure is usually still in good condition. Renovation of these buildings is therefore a new business opportunity. The current lack of theoretical and practical knowledge about the renovation of this type of buildings, tailored to construction companies, leads to a suboptimal implementation practice. The predetermined energetic performance improvements, comfort and aesthetics are being studied and listed. KMO Reno translates the universal principles of sustainable renovation to the building methods of KMO buildings. On the other hand, innovative renovation methods are also being tested and validated, as well as theoretically as practical. Distribution of results is done through an audience accessible website.

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A multiscale approach to model early age thermo-hydro-mechanical behaviour of non-reinforced concrete. 01/11/2016 - 31/10/2020

Abstract

The integrity of non-reinforced concrete structures at early stages of construction depends on many factors. One of these is the formation of cracks, which may be crucial in some applications. This problem is of great relevance for deep geological disposal concepts which consider concrete as one of the principle engineered barrier components, and for which the expected service life is > 1000s of years. This is particularly the case within the current Belgian disposal concept in which heat emitting radioactive wastes are post-conditioned in concrete/steel containers, to be placed in a deep underground geological formation using a system of galleries supported by non-reinforced concrete lining. In the early stages of repository construction and waste emplacement, the mechanical integrity of the concrete components is of utmost importance from the point of view of safety and performance. The potential retrievability/reversibility of wastes within a prolonged time period after waste emplacement places additional performance requirements on these concrete structures, which must retain their structural integrity over this period. The principal objective of this PhD is to make a first attempt at developing and implementing a multiscale-based coupled thermo-hydro-mechanical model to study the early age behaviour of nonreinforced concrete. In particular, the PhD student will develop a mathematical model that captures cracking potential due to thermo-hydraulic-mechanical transient conditions. To a limited extent, a secondary objective is also envisaged in which small laboratory-scale experiments may be carried out to derive parameters of importance for the multiscale models as well as for validation purposes.

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Value Ash - Classification of fly ashes for valuable resource cycles (VASH) 01/09/2016 - 01/03/2019

Abstract

The VASH consortium works on the maximum valorization of fly ashes from combustion processes. VASH investigates and develops an innovative drying in closed separation process that allows to divide Electro Magnetic and Mass Classification (EMC) fly ashes into valuable fine fractions. These installations will be developed from Flanders according to an Industry 4.0 concept, and commercialized worldwide. Simultaneously, new products will also be developed for the separated fly ash fractions. Coal gases, biomass in garbage incineration plants, are among the world's most produced waste in the order of 500 million tonnes a year. From VASH technology, economic separation of these particles on an industrial scale is commercially possible. VASH can convert these fly ash resources into interesting raw materials that lead to new applications in the concrete-cement industry to make very strong and durable concrete, road construction and for several other industries.

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