Assurance of Durable Concrete Structures Using Novel Testing Technologies Developed at QUB
Submitting InstitutionQueen's University Belfast
Unit of AssessmentCivil and Construction Engineering
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Engineering: Civil Engineering
Summary of the impact
By ensuring the durability of notable concrete structures in China, such
as the Bird's Nest National Stadium Beijing, Dayawan Nuclear Power
Station, Harbin-Dalian Railway Bridges, Qingdao Bay Bridge and
Beijing-Tianjin Railway Bridges using Autoclam Permeability System and
Permit Ion Migration test, developed by Queen's University Belfast (QUB)
and sold by a QUB spin-out Amphora Non-destructive Testing Ltd., the
savings in future repair costs are estimated to be hundreds of millions of
Chinese Yuan (RMB) (the repair expenditure for the three-year period
2009-'11 was RMB 10.2 billion).
Research on permeability and diffusivity testing of concrete on site
since 1993 has led to the incorporation of both the Autoclam and the
Permit in a corporation standard issued by the Central Research Institute
of Building and Construction (CRIBC), China and the test protocol of
Permit in a Chinese railway standard.
The training of construction professionals (including more than 200
senior managers from the Chinese construction industry) since 2008 has
impacted on improved sales of Autoclam Permeability System and Permit Ion
Migration Test, securing around £500k commercial income, and generating
new employment in the UK. Since 2008 these test instruments have been sold
to 12 countries.
Research on the durability of concrete structures has received global
attention since 1980s due to their premature failure and consequential
large spend of the construction budget (more than 50% in developed
countries) on repair and rehabilitation projects. By mid-1980s it was
realised that concrete structures deteriorate due to the ingress of
aggressive elements from the service environment into the concrete,
primarily governed by its transport properties (viz. sorptivity,
diffusivity and permeability), and consequential physical and chemical
actions in concrete. Therefore, as highlighted in the Concrete Society
Technical Report 31, methods of measuring the transport properties of
concrete received global attention. It was also recognised that the choice
of test should reflect the predominant degradation mechanism acting on the
concrete structure. Therefore, for an offshore structure, an absorption
(sorptivity) type test would be suitable for studying the long-term
performance of concrete in the tidal zone, whereas a diffusion type and/or
pressure differential water permeability type test would be more
appropriate for investigating the behaviour of concrete subjected to deep
submersion. By following this rationale, the Autoclam Permeability
System [grant (i); Basheer et al., 1995] and Permit Ion
Migration Test [grant (ii); Basheer et al., 2005] were developed so
as to obtain an index of the relevant transport properties in order to
assess the durability of concrete at different exposure conditions.
The protocols for carrying out the in situ air permeability test,
water permeability test and water absorption test on concrete and stone
masonry structures using the Autoclam Permeability System were developed
since 1993 by Basheer, Long and Montgomery (left QUB in
2003) [Basheer et al., 1994; 1995; Basheer and Nolan, 2001], supported by
an SERC grant [grant (i)].
The Permit Ion Migration test protocol [Basheer et al., 2005] for
measuring the resistance of concrete to chloride ion diffusion was
developed by Basheer, Robinson and Long, through
funding from EPSRC [grant (ii)]. Nanukuttan and Basheer
compared the Permit test with lab-based chloride diffusion tests, in a
project funded by the European Commission [grant (iii)] and the results
were published in a book by Spon Press [Tang et al., 2012]. The uniqueness
and quality of this research received international awards:
(i) The ACI/James Instruments Best Non-destructive Test Award,
USA in 1998.
(ii) Best paper award for university-based research at Structural
Faults and Repair-03 international conference in London, 2003.
(iii) Best student paper award at the international conference in
Cape Town, November, South Africa, 2004.
Meanwhile, as part of an EPSRC International Travel Grant [grant (iv)]
awarded to Long and Basheer, the premature deterioration
of concrete structures in China due to poor quality construction was
identified. The devastation caused by the earthquake in Sichuan, South
West of China in 2008 due to the collapse of concrete bridges and
buildings is an example of this. Realising the benefit of an early
assessment of the durability of their concrete structures, a research
programme was initiated, supported by EPSRC [UK-China Bridge in
Sustainable Energy and Built Environment grant, grant (v)] to validate QUB
tests for Chinese constructions. The following sub-contracts were
completed as part of this project:
(i) `Establishment of correlations between the Autoclam method and the
permeability test methods specified in China standards', by CRIBC,
(ii) `Research on the correlation of PERMIT ion migration test and
related Chinese standards', Department of Civil Engineering, Tsinghua
As a consequence, both the Autoclam and the Permit were established in
China for the quality assurance of their concrete structures, providing a
platform for the subsequent development of related Chinese Standards.
References to the research
References identified by an asterisk are suggestions for assessing
the research quality.
1) Basheer, P.A.M., Long, A.E. and Montgomery, F.R. (1994,
July/August), "The Autoclam — a new test for permeability", Concrete, The
Concrete Society, 28 (4), pp 27-29.
*2) Basheer, P.A.M., Montgomery, F.R. and Long, A.E. (1995),
"`CLAM' tests for measuring in-situ permeation properties of concrete",
Non-destructive Testing and Evaluation International, 12, pp 53-73; DOI:
*3) Basheer, P.A.M. and Nolan, E. (2001), "Near-surface
moisture gradients and in situ permeation tests", Construction and
Building Materials, 15 (2), pp 105-114; DOI:
*4) Basheer, P.A.M., Andrews, R.J., Robinson, D.J. and Long, A.E.
(2005), "`PERMIT' ion migration test for measuring the chloride ion
transport of concrete on site", Non-destructive Testing and Evaluation
International, 38, pp 219-229; DOI: 10.1016/j.ndteint.2004.06.013.
5) Tang, L., Nilsson, L-O. and Basheer, P.A.M. (2012), "Resistance
of concrete to chloride ingress: Testing and modelling", Spon Press, 241
pp. ISBN 978-0-415-48614-9.
(i) Assessment of the effectiveness of methods used to improve the
surface durability of concrete, SERC grant GR/H41003/01 (Apr. 1992-Jul.
1996, £95,020 non-FEC grant) to AE Long, FR Montgomery, and PAM
(ii) Development and validation of an in-situ accelerated ionic migration
test, EPSRC grant GR/L26308/01 (Apr. 1997-Mar. 2000, £164,625
non-FEC grant) to PAM Basheer, DJ Robinson and AE Long.
(iii) ChlorTest: Comparative study of different methods of measuring the
chloride penetration resistance of concrete, EU grant GRD1-2002-71808 (Jan.
2002-Dec. 2005, €1.2million total, QUB grant £41,874) to L Tang
(Sweden), PAM Basheer, SV Nanukuttan and 14 other EU partners.
(iv) Measuring durability properties of near-surface concrete for design
and quality control of reinforced concrete structures in China,
EP/C519183/1 (Sep. 2004-Aug. 2005, £3,873) to AE Long and PAM
(v) UK-China Bridge in Sustainable Energy and Built Environment grant,
EP/G042594/1 (Sep. 2009-Aug. 2012, £860,748); key researchers from
Civil Engineering: PAM Basheer and Y Bai (left QUB in 2012). http://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/sciencebridge/
Details of the impact
The underpinning research on developing methods to assess the durability of
concrete structures in situ
has led to significant international
impact, particularly in China, on change of practice and understanding of
procedures, resulting in savings in life cycle cost of concrete structures.
A QUB spin-out, Amphora NDT Limited (www.amphorandt.com
was able to increase the volume of sale of Autoclam and Permit, particularly
to China, since 2008, as a consequence of the underpinning research
described in section 2. That is, the impact was realised in three forms:
impact on practitioners and services, impact on economy, and impact on
commerce, as described below.
Impact on Practitioners and Services
The research described in section 2 and associated contributions by Basheer
and Nanukuttan (from 2004) to RILEM Committees TC178 on Testing
and Modelling Chloride Penetration in Concrete (2001-'05) and TC189
on Near Surface Evaluation of Covercrete (2003-'07) have resulted
in the incorporation of both the Autoclam and Permit in state-of-the-art
report documents prepared by RILEM [sources (i) and (ii)] and a
book by Spon Press [source (iii)]. As a consequence, these
instruments are used now in 12 countries (USA, Canada, Mexico, Libya,
South Africa, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom, Norway, Kuwait, India,
China and Australia) [source (iv)] to assess the durability of
The UK-China Science Bridge on Sustainable Energy and Built Environment
[Research Grant No. (v) in section 3] was the driver for the impact on
practitioners and services in China. The project comprised
proof-of-concept testing of the Autoclam and Permit in China, technology
transfer activities, training programmes and thematic workshops, in
collaboration with the project partners: CRIBC, China Railway Construction
Corporation Limited, China State Construction Engineering Corporation,
Research Institute of Highway Ministry of Communication, Zhejiang
University, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Chongqing
University and Xi'An University of Architecture and Technology. Starting
with the participation of 30 senior managers from China at a dedicated
UK-China Science Bridge conference session at Structural Faults and Repair
international conference in Edinburgh in 2010, the technology transfer and
training activities continued in 2010, 2011 and 2012. An international
workshop on 'in situ monitoring and assessment of concrete
structures' was held at QUB on 19 June 2010, which was attended by 25
delegates from China. On 28 and 29 September 2011, the Research Institute
of High Performance Concrete in CRIBC and QUB jointly hosted the first
UK-China Innovation Symposium in Beijing, which was attended by 150
invited delegates from the construction sector in China. The professional
training activities continued in 2011 when QUB hosted 25 managers from the
Chongqing Municipal Commission of Urban-Rural Development from 18 November
to 7 December 2011 to demonstrate QUB technology transfer activities in
the field of durability of concrete constructions. These training
activities concluded by showcasing the QUB devices at the UK Concrete Show
in Coventry on 22 and 23 February 2012.
A UK-China Science Bridge Concrete Centre (SBCC) was established in May
2009 at CRIBC to provide professional advice and services on durability of
concrete to the Chinese construction industry. Dr Ting-Yu Hao, who is the
principal Science Bridge partner in CRIBC, has been instrumental in
incorporating Autoclam and Permit in guidance notes and standards for
assessing the quality of concrete constructions in China. Dr Hao writes [source
(v)]: "Autoclam and Permit were incorporated in a corporation
standard issued by CRIBC. On the other hand, a railway standard title
with Railway Concrete, TB/T 3275-2011, quoted a test using a similar
process of Permit. The corresponding part is Appendix F with a title of
Test Method for measuring surface permeability of concrete." In the
UK, the Highway Agency Standards BA/06 recommends the use of Autoclam for
testing and monitoring the condition of concrete structures.
Impact on Economy
The Research Institute of High Performance Concrete (www.chinahpc.net),
part of the CRIBC, with Dr Hao as its Deputy Director, is a major
accredited testing laboratory for the performance assessment of
construction projects, products and materials in China, and has a
prestigious third-party witness testing qualification. Dr Hao and his team
have assessed notable structures using Autoclam and Permit in China,
including: concrete stands of Bird's Nest Stadium (National stadium for
the 29th Olympic Games), several piers and bridges of
Beijing-Shanghai high speed rail, Harbin-Dalian high speed rail bridge,
Huangjiahe bridge in Guyuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and concrete
containment of Daya Bay Nuclear power plant. With the support from Amphora
Non-destructive Testing Limited and QUB, Permit was applied in the
construction of Qingdao Bay Bridge in 2008 in China. The Qingdao Bay
Bridge was the first bridge built in the cold and frozen seas in north
China [source (vi)]. The impact of ensuring the durability of
these concrete structures by early age testing using the Autoclam and
Permit on the economy of the Chinese construction industry can be better
understood if some of the national statistics are compared.
In the last two years expenditure in China on new construction and repair
and rehabilitation was RMB 16.7 billion and RMB 3.8 billion annually
respectively. These figures compare with RMB 6.7 billion and RMB 1.3
billion spent annually in 2005-08 on new construction and repair and
rehabilitation respectively. That is, there has been a steady increase in
construction budget, but large sums of money were spent on repair and
rehabilitation work. Therefore, by ensuring the durability of concrete
structures using early age testing, the proportion of money that will be
spent on repair is reduced in future years. This was confirmed by Dr Hao,
who says: "By durability assessment, we may have saved millions in the
Impact on Commerce
The impact on commerce has been by way of increased sales of Autoclam and
Permit, particularly to China, by Amphora NDT Limited [source (iv)],
a QUB spin out company, which manufactures and markets NDT techniques and
sensor systems (www.amphorandt.com).
Amphora has sold more than 60 of these products, securing around £500k
commercial income since 2008. As a result, it was possible to create two
new jobs in the UK.
Sources to corroborate the impact
(i) Non-Destructive Evaluation of the Penetrability and Thickness of the
Concrete Cover, State-of-the-Art-Report of RILEM Technical Committee
189-NEC, Report No. 40, RILEM Publications S.A.R.L., Bagneux, France,
2007, ISBN 978-2-35158-054-7.
(ii) Update of the Recommendation of RILEM TC 189-NEC Non-destructive
Evaluation of the Concrete Cover, Materials and Structures, Vol. 41, 2008,
pp 443-447. DOI 10.1617/s11527-007-9334-x.
(iii) Resistance of concrete to chloride ingress: Testing and modelling,
Spon Press, 2012, 241 pp. ISBN 978-0-415-48614-9.
(iv) Amphora NDT Limited, Belfast, Northern Ireland (www.amphorandt.com)
— Contact: Chairman, Amphora Board.
(v) Central Research Institute for Buildings and Construction, Beijing,
China — Contact: Deputy Director, High Performance Concrete Research
(vi) Department of Civil Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
— Contact: Director, Institute of Building Materials.