The Center for Multifunctional Nanocomposite Construction Materials (Polei Ylika, CMNCM) at the Democritus University of Thrace (DUTh) conducts innovative research to produce multifunctional nanocomposite cement based materials with substantially increased durability that can be used simultaneously as construction materials or/and sensors to monitor the condition of structures. This research is highly motivated by the idea of “tailoring” the concrete properties at the nanoscale so as to develop a new generation of a “crack-free material”. The goal of the center is to leap forward into a new era of cementitious materials reinforced at the nanoscale and the microscale level. It is envisioned that problems which cannot be solved with existing technology can be addressed with the use of nanoscale materials and manipulation of the matrix nanostructure. To achieve this, the research is focused on reinforcing cementitious materials at the nanoscale, where cracks initiate, by using carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and carbon nanofibers (CNFs), as well as at the microscale, by employing Technical Textiles (TTs) that incorporate optical fibers. The center provides a thorough research experience including laboratory and analytical work, and professional development. Furthermore on a research level, it acts as the nucleus for further collaborations with the industry and other academic institutes. The resulting high performance cement-based nanocomposites are expected to exhibit improved mechanical properties, durability, reduced autogenous shrinkage and self-sensing capabilities.
Research at the Center for Multifunctional Nanocomposite Construction Materials is being conducted by three research groups: the Laboratory of Applied Mechanics (Research Team #1), the Testing Laboratory of Reinforced Concrete (Research Team #2), and the Structural Materials Lab of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Patras (Research Team #3). The Laboratory of Applied Mechanics, specializes on the development of the new revolutionary multifunctional high performance cementitious composites reinforced with CNTs or CNFs and/or microfibers with improved mechanical properties and smart capabilities. The Testing Laboratory of Reinforced Concrete, focuses in the study, experimental corroboration and mathematical modeling of the mechanics of failure of nanomodified cementitious-based materials and the mechanisms of interaction and bonding of the nanoscale fibers with the matrix. The Structural Materials Lab, is focused on the optimum design of textiles for use as strengthening means of cement-based matrices (with or without nanofibers) so that the resulting composite material may be employed both in prefabrication applications and in structural upgrading/strengthening interventions. Custom-designed textiles are also combined with appropriate high-tech sensors and incorporated in precast or strengthened structural elements in order to detect their stress and strain profiles.