Experts present infrastructure innovations

Nanotechnology for use in the concrete industry, developments in aviation and computational mechanics were some of the topics addressed during FAPESP Week California in Berkeley

By Diego Freire, in Berkeley (USA)

Agência FAPESP – Worldwide demand for concrete stands at 33 billion tons per year, production that constitutes up to 8% of atmospheric CO2 emissions and uses 2.7 billion tons of water. Sustainable alternatives for this and other infrastructure challenges were discussed by researchers from São Paulo and the University of California Tuesday (11/18/14), the final day of FAPESP Week California in Berkeley.

For Paulo Jose Melaragno Monteiro, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UCB and graduate of the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo (Poli/USP), the future for buildings lies in nanotechnology.

“Portland cement, the kind most frequently used in civil construction, developed over a period of 190 years. We can’t wait that long to move forward in this field, in the face of all its challenges, and nanotechnology has allowed us to work more quickly in looking for alternative materials,” Monteiro told Agência FAPESP.

According to the professor, the urgency for innovations in the field is due not only to the environmental impact surrounding the demand for concrete, but also to its deterioration. “Our civil infrastructure is aging, reinforced concrete infrastructure is deteriorating at a rapid rate. The action of natural phenomena such as frost, rust, and sulfate attacks, among other things, has reduced the durability of roads, bridges, dams and buildings,” he warned.

During his talk at FAPESP Week California, the researcher presented some of his work at UCB, such as the development of equipment that uses synchrotron radiation to characterize nano and microstructures of cement paste and concrete exposed to aggressive environments.

“In order to change and improve the current technology, we need to increase our understanding of the nanostructure of products and complex deterioration reactions. This knowledge can be used to produce more durable reinforced concrete structures,” he stressed.

The performance of processes related to infrastructure was also discussed by Julio Romano Meneghini from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Poli/USP, who talked about the activities of that institution’s Fluid and Dynamics Research Group (NDF), particularly with regard to studies with vortices and their applications in Civil, Mechanical, Aeronautical and Naval Engineering.

“Vortices occur in various contexts and affect such things as the cylindrical elements of natural gas or oil exploration platform structures that are subject to currents and waves, and the wings and aerodynamic surfaces of aircraft. That is why we have to know how they behave,” Meneghini explained.

Among the projects developed by the NDF in generating and shedding vortices, Meneghini presented research studies on numerical simulation of flow in hydraulic machines and hydromechanical equipment, and innovations in aeronautical engineering, mostly carried out with funding from FAPESP.

Meneghini also talked about a research project conducted under the scope of the FAPESP Research Partnership for Technological Innovation Program (PITE) to develop enhanced solutions for external aircraft noise, adapted to the new demands of international civil aviation.

“The project came about because Embraer needed to comply with requirements related to aircraft noise, and our work involved computational aero-acoustics, analytical and empirical modeling, and tunnel and test flights,” he said.

The researcher is now working with the Research Center for Gas and Innovation established by FAPESP in partnership with BG Brasil, part of the British oil and gas multinational BG Group, collaborating on research studies on clean energy production and consumption.

“The work involves investigations for enhancing engineering techniques for production of natural gas, its development as a raw material, shipping, and the consumption of clean energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other objectives.

For Paulo Monteiro of UCB, the Research Center for Gas Innovation and other national initiatives presented at the symposium may serve as channels for interactions between Brazilian and U.S. scientists. “They are issues the whole world is interested in and Brazil has performed an important role in seeking sustainable infrastructure solutions. We are going to build bridges between our research studies.”

Finite elements

While new partnerships were being sought, a casual collaboration between UCB and the University of Campinas (Unicamp) was presented by Philippe Remy Bernard Devloo, of the School of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Urban Studies (FEC) who developed NeoPZ, a library of finite elements that allows users to conduct numerical simulations applicable to a variety of infrastructure areas.

“This is collaboration, no matter how coincidental, because UCB is considered the cradle of finite elements, a term coined by researchers of the institution in 1956,” said Devloo, who works with Embraer to develop software for numerical simulation of fluid mechanics, and with Petrobras on numerical simulations of hydraulic fracturing.

The finite element method is a computational tool for calculations that, in practice, would be difficult or even impossible.

“NeoPZ consists of nearly stand-alone components that can be used by any finite element software project: linear algebra, geometric maps, definition of bilinear shapes. Our intent is to make this facility accessible to the scientific community and help transfer finite element technology to industry through the development of highly specialized simulations.”

The library can be freely accessed from the site of LabMeC, the FEC Structures Department Laboratory/Unicamp, at

Following the activities in Berkeley, November 17-18, 2014, FAPESP Week California continues at the University of California, Davis, November 20-21.