The University of Warwick is to be at the forefront of a drive to transfer high-tech materials used in the aerospace and automotive industries into the construction sector.

It is leading a consortium, including five other UK universities, which has been awarded a £1.3 million grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The project will see civil and structural engineers explore the durability of composite materials in a bid to unlock their full potential for infrastructure and civil engineering works.

Composite materials have been used in the mechanical engineering sectors for many years as they are strong, stiff and light-weight. These characteristics mean they could offer exciting possibilities for new infrastructure, especially in bridges and low-rise buildings.

But before they can be utilised fully engineers need to be able to predict exactly how long into the future their structures will be fit for purpose.

The DURACOMP project will address this challenge by carrying out physical testing of composite materials and structural connections and joints, as well as developing computer modelling of their behaviour for lifetimes in tens of years.

Professor Toby Mottram of the School of Engineering at the University of Warwick said: “High-performance, light-weight composites have transformed sectors like automotive and aerospace and there is real potential that they could do the same for the UK’s national infrastructure.

“But as buildings and bridges have to be designed to last longer into the future than cars or aeroplanes, we need to understand exactly how their structural performance will change with age and to possible climate changes.

“The deliverables from this grant will help us to establish the durability of these materials and their structures, through a combination of collecting experimental data and advancing computer modelling.”

The University of Warwick is collaborating with the University of Bath, the University of Bristol, the University of Glasgow, the University of Leeds and Newcastle University on the project.