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Durability in concrete: understanding the influence of capillary pressures for controlling shrinkage and cracking in early age concrete (Advert Reference: RDF20/EE/MCE/MENDES)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 24, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The build-up of capillary pressures in the pore space in early age concrete can be responsible for the formation of cracks throughout a concrete element that can be ultimately responsible for the failure of a structure.

When a batch of fresh concrete is poured inside a mould it is normally a slurry with a significant amount of water. As time passes, the water in the pores is either consumed, as part of chemical reactions, or evaporates, if the surface is exposed to the environment. As the amount of water in the concrete reduces and becomes replaced by air a curved water surface is formed inside the pores. The formation of the curved water surface results in contracting forces between solid particles that can ultimately result in the formation of cracks within the concrete.

In this project, the main aims are to develop a field methodology to monitor capillary pressures as a means to evaluate the risk for the potential for the formation of cracks and to develop curing measures to control the build-up of capillary pressures in young age concrete. As part of this research, a new method for monitoring capillary pressures in early age concrete based on high capacity tensiometers used in geotechnics will be developed.

Applicants with degrees in Civil Engineering, Materials Science/Engineering, or a related subject are encouraged to apply. Knowledge in concrete and laboratory experience is highly desirable.

This project will be supervised by Dr Joao Mendes. The second and third supervisors will be Dr Michael Lim and Dr Brabha Nagaratnam.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF20/EE/MCE/MENDES) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 24 January 2020
Start Date: 1 October 2020

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home/EU/ Worldwide students where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa) and full fees.


Mendes J., Gallipoli D., Tarantino A., Toll D. (2018) On the development of an Ultra-High Capacity Tensiometer capable of measuring water tensions to 7 MPa. Geotechnique, 69(6), 560-564.

Mendes J. and Buzzi O. New insight into cavitation mechanisms in high-capacity tensiometers based on high-speed photography. Canadian Geotechnical Journal. 50(5), 2013.

BH Nagaratnam, ME Rahman, AK Mirasa, MA Mannan, SO Lame. (2016) Workability and heat of hydration of self-compacting concrete incorporating agro-industrial waste. Journal of cleaner production 112, 882-894.

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