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European Network for Composite Reinforcement
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Background to the project

FRP (Fibre Reinforced Polymers) including Advanced Composites Materials have made a rapid entrance in the construction sector, but they are still not well understood by most civil engineers not trained in the field. Design guidelines vary between different countries and a massive effort is needed to develop design standards to enable the European industry to compete both in Europe and Worldwide.
FRPs are attractive in construction, since they possess a high strength to weight ratio (more than 10 times that of steel), can be shaped easily and can have exceptional durability in aggressive environments. In strengthening applications they are easy and quick to apply saving effort and time as well as offering flexibility in difficult spaces. In the durability market, they are replacing stainless and epoxy coated reinforcement especially in thin architectural elements. Other markets utilise other properties of FRP including their electromagnetic neutrality (e.g. floors for MRI medical equipment).
The growth of FRP in Construction in recent years has been spectacular, doubling in size in the last 10 years. This expansion has been primarily a result of use of FRP in structural applications. It is predicted that in the next 10 years, the world-wide expansion in this market will be up to 525%, exceeding the total value of €1.4 billion . FRP are not only popular with the construction industry, but in the last 6 years, they have been the focus of intense research all over the world. Over 25% of all publications in structural engineering journals are dedicated to research on FRP and already the first generation of design guidelines have been produced in Japan, Canada, USA and Europe.
Despite the intense activity in the construction industry and academic research, often little interaction exists between the two sectors and materials and techniques are used without much fundamental scientific understanding.
The major scientific challenges in this field include: advanced models for FRP concrete/masonry interaction, models for near surface reinforcement, anchorage of FRP tendons, determination of long-term deformations and durability, strengthening of joints and statically indetermined structures (especially for seismic upgrading), advanced models for concrete confinement, understanding the behaviour of curved FRP, models for behaviour in fire and elevated temperature and post-strengthening assessment. On the fundamentals of design, a new design philosophy needs to be developed so that the new generation of design guidelines is flexible enough to accommodate new and future materials.
The purpose of the proposed RTN is to try and address the above challenges and offer a link between academia and industry. This will be done not only through the mobility and work of new researchers, which will transfer ideas for the cross-pollination of the various sectors, but also through the co-ordinated approach of developing material specification standards and pre-standard design guidelines. For that purpose, the RTN will work in parallel with Task Group 9.3 of the International Federation of Concrete (fib) and ISO.
The more extensive use of FRP in construction is in direct line with EU Environment Policy, built into the Treaty by the Single European Act of 198724. The project will contribute to the key aims of the policy – sustainable growth through the preservation of the environment – by increasing the lifetime of concrete structures and reducing the use of new concrete and rebars, thereby directly minimising the drain on non-renewable natural resources (cement, aggregate etc). The project also supports the Kyoto Protocol25 through the reduction of CO2 emissions from cement production due to less concrete usage and lower reinforcement and repair requirements, as well as less traffic congestion during repair periods.
The project will also contribute to EU Industrial policy relating to normalisation in construction, EU Energy policy through lower energy consumption, Economic & Social Cohesion policies and Research & Technology policies through development and exploitation of new technology.