As the world faces unprecedented challenges, including the need for sustainable infrastructure, civil engineers are being called upon to find new solutions to old problems
From the archival discoveries, it is revealed that it has taken thousands of years for man to reach the present state. All along he has been inventing and innovating new things according to his needs. It is said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Human history has witnessed: The Prehistoric World (100,000-40,000 years ago), the Stone Age: Upper Palaeolithic (40,000-10,000 years ago) and Neolithic (12000 years ago). The discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel, and the knowledge of agriculture were all equally important. We witnessed the Metal Age, the Bronze Age (from 3000 BC), the Iron Age (2000 and 1200 BC), the dawn of history, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Christianity. Next, we saw: the rise of Islam in the 7th century AD. The very Renaissance was brought about by the impact of Islamic culture and learning. The next were the Middle Ages around 1000 AD. Also, civilization developed in the Indian subcontinent, China and Japan, Africa, Ancient America, etc., Thus, there have been many landmarks of civilization and a series of discoveries and inventions followed in various fields like mathematics, astronomy, biology and anatomy, geometry and trigonometry, algebra, linguistics, mechanics, optics, medicine, physics, chemistry, social sciences, and economics, etc.
By the 17th century, experimentation and observations were the preferred tools of deduction. Progress was made in all fields of knowledge. All along engineers are key figures in the material progress of the world. Various calamities like floods, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, epidemics, etc., including the recent COVID-19 pandemic tested our resilience. We have become dependent on power, digital transforming of our lives, engineering a system approach. Here the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET) says it will champion the vital role which engineers and engineering will play in delivering them to government, industry, and local communities, the research community, and the education and engineering communities.
There are several types of innovation, some of which are: product innovation, service innovation, process innovation, technological innovation, business model innovation, marketing innovation, architectural innovation, and social innovation besides their integration.
INNOVATIONS IN CIVIL ENGINEERING
The field of civil engineering has always been at the forefront of innovation, and 2023 is no exception. As the world faces unprecedented challenges, including the need for sustainable infrastructure, civil engineers are being called upon to find new solutions to old problems. From smarter construction techniques to cutting-edge materials and innovative designs, the latest advances in civil engineering promise to transform the industry and help build a more resilient, efficient, and sustainable future.
Here we will explore some of the most exciting developments in civil engineering innovation in 2023 and beyond and examine the impact they are likely to have on the industry and society.
New Innovation In Civil Engineering 2023
1. Self-healing Concrete
2. Thermal Bridging
3. Photovoltaic Glaze
4. Kinetic Footfall
5. Kinetic Roads
6. 3D Modelling
7. Modular Construction
8. Asset Mapping
9. Internet of Things
11. Remote sharing of data
12. Solar Roadway Concepts
13. Transparent Wood
1. Self-healing Concrete: Cement is the most widely used material in construction, but also one of the biggest contributors to harmful carbon emissions, said to be responsible for around 7 percent of annual global emissions. One major problem is cracking in construction, usually caused by exposure to water and chemicals. Bath University researchers are looking to develop a self-healing concrete, using a mix containing bacteria within microcapsules which will germinate when water enters a crack in the concrete, with exact limestone, plugging the crack before water and oxygen have a chance to corrode the steel reinforcement.
2. Thermal Bridging: The demand for efficient insulation material is becoming crucially important throughout the construction industry. The heat through walls tends to cross directly through the building envelope, be it masonry, block, or stud frame, to the internal fascia such as drywall. This process is called “thermal bridging”. Aerogel, the Nasa technology developed for cryogenic insulation, is considered one of the most effective thermal insulation materials, and US spin-off. This can be used to insulate studs, which can considerably increase the overall wall R-value (an industry measure of thermal resistance) by more than 40 percent.
3. Photovoltaic Glaze: Glazing integrated photovoltaic can help buildings generate their own electricity, by turning the whole building envelope into a solar panel. Polysolar is a company that provides transparent photovoltaic glass as a structural building material, forming windows, façades, and roofs. The grazing material of Polysolar is efficient at producing energy even on north-facing, vertical walls. It is high performance at raised temperatures means it can be double-glazed or insulated directly.
4. Kinetic Footfall: Another technology is kinetic energy which is under development that is Pavegen provides a technology that enables the flooring to harness the energy of footsteps. It may be utilized indoors or outdoors in high-traffic areas and generates electricity from pedestrian footfall using an electromagnetic induction process and flywheel energy storage. The Kinetic footfall is most efficient for transport hubs where a large flow of people will pass over it. The company deployment done so far is on a football pitch in Rio de Janeiro to help power the floodlights around the pitch. It has been temporarily installed outside London’s Canary Wharf station powering streetlights.
5. Kinetic Roads: The utility of kinetic energy potential in roadways is explored by the Italian startup Underground Power. The company has developed a technology called Lybra, a tire-like rubber paving that converts the kinetic energy produced by moving vehicles into electrical energy
Kinetic Energy from car: This technology is developed in collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Milan, Lybra operates on the principle that a braking car dissipates kinetic energy. This new cutting-edge technology is able to collect and convert kinetic energy into electricity and pass it on to the electricity grid also for improving road safety, the device upgrades and promotes sustainability of road innovation in construction.
6. 3D Modelling: Innovative planning concepts have been driven by the growth of smart cities. For that purpose, the software developed by CyberCity3D is geospatial modelling that specializes in the production of smart 3D building models. Modelling Smart City Design: It helps in creating smart digital 3D buildings to help the architectural, and construction sectors visualize and communicate design and data with CC3D proprietary software. These models can be integrated with 3D geographic information system platforms, such as Autodesk and ESRI can stream 3D urban building data to Cesium’s open architecture virtual 3D globe. It delivers data information for urban, energy, sustainability, and design planning, and works in conjunction with many smart city SaaS platforms such as Cityzenith.
7. Modular Construction: This includes the building constructed off-site using the same materials and designed to the same standards as conventional on-site construction. It also helps in limiting environmental disruption, delivering components as and when needed, and turning construction into a logistics exercise. It also offers strong sustainability benefits, from fewer vehicle movements to less waste. By using this method with up to 70 percent of a building produced as components, it allows a move towards “just in time” manufacturing and delivery. This method is currently popular in the United States and the UK, Chinese developer Broad Sustainable Building recently completed a 57-storey skyscraper.
8. Asset Mapping: This technique focuses on operational equipment, including heating and air conditioning, lighting, and security systems, collecting data from serial numbers, firmware, and engineering notes of when it was installed and by whom, and combines the data in one place. It shows engineers in real-time on a map where the equipment needs to be installed and, once the assets are connected to the real-time system using the internet. These can be operated via the web, app, and other remote devices and systems. Asset mapping helps customers build databases of asset performance, which can assist in proactive building maintenance, and also reduce building procurement and insurance costs.
9. Internet of Things: The Internet of Things, abbreviated as IoT, indicates a lot of devices connected to each other so that they can transfer data. This can help in inducing smart technologies even in the construction field. With the application of this technology, smart machines can be invented that can run and maintain on their own- especially for repetitive tasks. Improved accuracy and functionality of Geo-Location can help in tracking dangerous areas and thus help in avoiding accidents. Moreover, smart technologies can also be employed to reduce the carbon footprint.
10. Drones: Earlier on, smart technologies were not quite used in the construction field. However, the scenario is changing and with the advent of new technologies, construction is also becoming smarter and less tedious. Drones in the construction industry: Drones can be employed to monitor the site. Its usage permits the inspector to control large site areas while sitting in one place. They can also be used for material supply to the sites.
11. Remote sharing of data: This remote sharing of data is an advanced system and intelligent for civil structures used for online measurement, data archiving, and structure monitoring. The remote sharing of data in civil engineering is a collaboration tool called base stone; it is an allowing system and then share online data on a construction site in actual time. It is one type of review tool for civil engineers and architects.
12. Solar Roadway Concepts: This solar roadway is a modular paving system of panels that can withstand the heaviest truck. These solar road panels are installed on different places like driveways, roads, bike pathways, sidewalks, playgrounds, and virtually any surface under the sun. They mainly pay for themselves through the generation of electricity that can power homes and businesses through parking lots and driveways. These solar panels have also many other features like heating elements, for snow-free living, and LEDs for creating street lines and signage.
13. Transparent Wood: Transparent wood is a new type of material that has been developed through a process of removing the light-absorbing lignin from natural wood. The resulting material is a type of wood veneer that is highly transparent, yet still retains the structural and mechanical properties of natural wood. This innovative material offers several benefits, including improved energy efficiency and enhanced aesthetics in buildings. It can be used for windows, cladding, and other architectural features, providing a natural and sustainable alternative to traditional glass. Transparent wood also offers better insulation properties than traditional glass, and is highly durable, with good resistance to shattering and cracking. As research into transparent wood continues, it holds the potential to revolutionize the construction industry and contribute to a more sustainable future.
Similarly the ‘engineering innovation for a more resilient world’ is in progress in other fields of engineering, which is the theme of this 56th Engineers Day. Engineers who contributed to the development of ISRO’s Chandrayan-3 spacecraft which successfully landed near the south pole of the Moon on the 23rd of August 2023 evening were from several private companies like Tata Consulting Engineers Limited (TCE), Larsen & Tourbo (L&T), Walchandnagar Industries, Godrej & Boyce, Centum Electronics.
Thus, in human history, engineering has been involved from the manufacture of a needle to the launching of a spacecraft. With the increase in population and fast pace of development of technology and unprecedented challenges, the need for SMART goal setting has arisen. All discoveries, inventions and innovations involve the sweat and blood of scientists and engineers which reminds me of a quote from Dr Iqbal:
Naqsh Hain Sub Na-Tamaam Khoon-e-Jigar Ke Baghair
Naghma Hain Soda’ay Khaam Khoon-e-Jigar Ke Bahgair
(Incomplete are all creations without the lifeblood of the Creator Soulless is the melody without the lifeblood of the maestro)
The writer is a former Chief Engineer and can be reached at [email protected]. The write-up was presented on the 56th Engineers Day in IEI J&K SC on September 15, 2023, at IEI J&K State Center Srinagar.