Dr Stana Zivanovic received one of the four Philanthropy Awards for her project to develop an eco-friendly concrete, using a mixture of concrete and recycled plastic fibres. The project will develop and test the new material with the aim of producing a reinforced concrete which is stronger, more flexible and more resistant to cracking than the traditional mix, and in turn reduces waste plastic export.
The concept of using fibres as reinforcement in concrete is not new. Since the 1900s, asbestos fibre has been used in concrete, but after the discovery of the associated health risks, there was a need to find a replacement. By the 1960s, steel, glass (GFRC), and synthetic fibres such as polypropylene were being used in concrete. Today, Stana's research hopes to take these developments to the next level but utilising an otherwise waste product - two thirds of the plastic waste in the UK is currently exported.
The new material will be tested for use in the construction of more buildings and bridges, as well as foundations for off-shore wind turbines, which require high levels of resistence and durability. Stana and her team also hope that the new, more resilient concrete will be the ideal material for construction of durable coastal defences against rising sea levels.
Building bridges: A novel inspiration
Stana was inspired into civil engineering as a child in Yugoslavia by a novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Ivo Andric, called 'The Bridge over the Drina River'. Stana describes the novel, a story about the construction of a bridge, its longevity and its ability to connect people, as 'an immense influence'. She went on to study civil engineering in Belgrade, then at the University of Sheffield, before coming to Warwick to research the dynamic behaviour of pedestrian and road bridges and other civil engineering structures.